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Claudia Emerson Wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Claudia Emerson, a professor at the University of Mary Washington, discuses winning the Pulitzer for her book "Late Wife," a compilation of poems about loves lost, marriage and divorce.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    For Claudia Emerson, the road to the life of a poet wasn't immediate or self-evident. After college, she was soon married and worked as a mail carrier and in a used bookstore before setting her sights on verse.

    For the last eight years, she's taught English at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Claudia Emerson is the author of three books of poetry; the most recent, "Late Wife," has just been awarded the Pulitzer Prize. It tells of loves lost through death and divorce and examines a newfound love between a couple who came together later in life.

    Claudia Emerson joins us now.

    And welcome, and congratulations.

    CLAUDIA EMERSON, Pulitzer Prize-Winner in Poetry: Thank you very much.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Each poem in this book is a kind of letter to someone, a former husband, your current husband, and to yourself. Tell us how this came about?

  • CLAUDIA EMERSON:

    Well, I had written two previous books of poems before coming to write this book. And what began it was getting married a second time to a man who was a widower.

    And he had lost his first wife to lung cancer, and they had been very happily married. And I began to feel compelled to write about our relationship because of that. I process the world through poetry; it's how I think about things, emotions, that sort of things.

    So I began to write those poems first. And then, from that period, I began to look back on my first marriage and see that there might be poetry there that would also be of value to me.

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