cover image The Opposite House

The Opposite House

Claudia Emerson. Louisiana State Univ, $17.95 trade paper (72p) ISBN 978-0-8071-5847-0

Each poem in this last work from the late Emerson, who won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Late Wife, is a finely detailed portrait. Her subjects include everything from inanimate objects (a drive-in movie theater, wisdom teeth), archetypical characters (the middle child, the aunt, a woman with Alzheimer’s, a greengrocer), and more specific figures such as those found in her poem “Dr. Crawford Long, Discoverer of the First Surgical Anesthetic, and the Case of Isam Bailey.” Emerson is an intense, intelligent, and authoritative poet who expresses herself through spare, sharp lines that burst with emotion. She also understands the interplay between language and her very human subjects, as when she writes of an old telephone operator, “All morning she has answered, ever pleasant,/ the one no one wants, but must reach for.” As for her greengrocer: “Customers handle all of what he has displayed,/ worried, he has come to think, skeptical,/ the way they might be about a child.” 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. [em](Mar.) [/em]