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The Opposite House


L.E. Phillabaum Poetry Award

72 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations

ebook available


  Hardcover / 9780807158470 / March 2015
  Paperback / 9780807158487 / March 2015
With graceful lines swooping like a bird in flight, Claudia Emerson’s newest collection explores the harsh realities of aging and the limitations of the human body, as well as the loneliness, fear, and anger that can accompany us as we live.
Keenly observed and beautifully executed, these poems move from the grim façade that hides beauty—prosthetic eyes—to the beautiful scene that conceals violence—a rural retreat. Emerson also considers once common things that are fast becoming obsolete: cursive writing, telephone booths, barbers.
At once hopeful and cognizant of all the reasons why humans might despair, these poems echo with remarkable insight into the true nature of life.

Claudia Emerson published six poetry collections with LSU Press, including Late Wife, Secure the Shadow, and The Opposite House. A professor of English and member of the creative writing faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Emerson served as the poet laureate of Virginia and won numerous awards for teaching and writing—including the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry—before her death in 2014.

Praise for The Opposite House

“Each poem in this last work from the late Emerson, who won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Late Wife, is a finely detailed portrait. . . . Emerson’s sensitive and loving treatment of all her poetic material, her precise and provocative descriptions of her subjects’ thoughts and emotions, and her excellent use of language calls for the highest of accolades. It’s a brilliant and original work.”—Publishers Weekly

“There’s something bounteous, almost religious, in the graceful turning and opening of these lines, the way Emerson’s concentration grows spacious. . . . Open and complex.”—Slate

“The twang of [Emerson’s] Virginia voice in speech and in song will be missed in the years to come. We can be thankful, however, that we are left with a gift—a body of work to be released posthumously. This first installment is a delight; not an easy pleasure, often painful in fact, but as humans we will always wonder about the opposite house, and Emerson has bravely given us the chance to stop and stare.”—Hopkins Review

“Em­erson’s verse is grounded in a genuine curiosity, and her undertaking (fueled, perhaps, by the awareness of her own mortality) breathes new life into a tried-and-true subject. . . . The Op­posite House is a stark and stoic rumination on death, one that only someone facing it could provide.”—Pleiades

“Clear-sighted, far-reaching, disturbing, and at times painfully honest, at others humorous. The Opposite House is the most ambitious, most fully realized of Emerson’s books.”—Shenandoah

The Opposite House. . . . seems almost magical in its precision and receptivity, as if she were channeling information from the future as well as the past. . . . Powerful, artful, and memorable.”—Hollins Critic

“Emerson’s ability to capture the mystery found in everyday moments makes these poems eminently readable. . . . Emerson exposes the familiar in a way that makes us wonder how we could have seen the same thing for so long and not realized its critical essence. And when she writes about her personal losses and her own deteriorating condition, we cannot help but feel we are reading about someone we know deeply and personally.”—Virginia Living

The Opposite House is an excellent collection. The poems will set intelligent readers thinking rather than hurrying on to the next page. There is neither pathos nor bathos in these honest observations of what it means to be mortal in an inconsistent world.”—New Orleans Review

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