Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Late Wife” as Want to Read:
Late Wife
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Late Wife

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  826 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
In Late Wife, a woman explores her disappearance from one life and reappearance in another as she addresses her former husband, herself, and her new husband in a series of epistolary poems. Though not satisfied in her first marriage, she laments vanishing from the life she and her husband shared for years. She then describes the unexpected joys of solitude during her recov ...more
Paperback, 54 pages
Published September 1st 2005 by LSU Press
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Late Wife, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Late Wife

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
RIP Claudia Emerson. This is my second condolence in as many days.

I read this Pulitzer Prize winning collection a few months ago, but hadn't reviewed. What I love about poets like Claudia Emerson is that they're accessible, yet still musical. Her poems have a cadence, a beauty of language, but you don't need a code breaker to find their meaning. In my opinion, these are the best kind of poets and the kind whose work will be remembered and read through the ages.

Yet again, this is a sad loss for
James Murphy
Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I'd forgotten these are epistolary poems, a characteristic which makes me like them more because it holds the poet to a discipline and to higher standards which I think Emerson meets. The heart of the volume may be the 3d part, a sonnet sequence adding other restrictions to be dealt with. And making the poet's feat even more impressive. These are poems about marriage and breakup, about dealing with cancer and grief. To me the overall tone of the poems is that of a heavy, opaque atmosphere throug ...more
Sherry Chandler
May 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Eveybody
Shelves: thepoets
This is a clean even eloquent collection of poems that somehow didn't move me as much as it ought to have. I am willing to admit the fault to be in myself. Sometimes wonderful books come to us at the wrong time.

The book has three sections: Divorce Epistles, Breaking Up the House, and Late Wife. The last section, mostly loosely rhymed sonnets, is haunted by the ghost of the lover's late wife. This is the section that spoke most to me, though I read it in a noisey cafeteria.

For a long time there
Jan 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I am torn between giving this book a three or a four, personally, although the quality of writing deserves a five. Why if it is worthy of a five do I rate it lower? The subject matter feels dark within the first few poems and remains that way throughout, and I felt somewhat smothered by the bleakness of it. This is not to say the book is not written well, just not uplifting. This book is a success because Emerson transposes these emotions onto her readers. I just finished reading it in one sitti ...more
Heather Mize
Apr 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I just can't explain how much I love this collection. That may seem odd considering the subject, but Emerson taps into so much emotion, and curiosity. I've read my copy of late wife so many times and I find myself inspired every time. Her writing is beautiful, soulful, and achingly brilliant.
Peycho Kanev
Jul 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry

Сетивата ми работят по такъв начин, че щом доловят някой да казва „американска модерна поезия”, моментално мозъкът активира ушите ми. Но веднага след това, ако този някой добави „американската поетеса”, признавам, че ентусиазмът ми се смъква с един градус по ска?лата на интереса. Да, за някои женски имена той остава непроменен, дори се изкачва още по-нагоре. Например такива, като: неземната Емили Дикинсън на първо място, изключителната Ан Карсън (която всъщност е канадка, но нищо), прекрасната М
May 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
Claudia Emerson's Pulitzer Prize winning collection, Late Wife, deals with death, as you might imagine, considering the title. But not just death in the literal sense. Here there is death of love, death of a house and death of a home, (two very different things). The death of animals, seasons, and even furnaces, along with the traditional death of the body.

And she writes beautifully about them, there is no doubt. She's a good poet. And yet, reading these poems, I didn't feel the emotional pull
Kelsey Fitzpatrick
Mar 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Late Wife by Claudia Emerson offers a beautiful collection of poems formatted similarly to a short story. Each poem ebbs and flows into the next, depicting both dramatic and enthralling situations from her own life. Beginning with “Natural History Exhibits” which captures the guilt of a failed marriage, she illuminates the stage for the first section “Divorce Epistles”. She uses not only language but also the format of her poems to illustrate profound emotion. The poems found in “Divorce Epistle ...more
Nov 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Claudia is a former professor of mine, so be warned – this is a totally, 100% biased review. I’m not even trying to be impartial.

I read this book shortly after the end of a very bad relationship and at the very beginning of wonderful but risky one. Now, clearly, the life events described in the book are much more weighty than mine were – I had no marriage, no divorce, no death - but the fears, the anxieties, the atmosphere... oh, I knew them well. And these poems gave me comfort at a point when
Oct 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Understatement used to its greatest effect.
Nicky Enriquez
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Melodic and melancholy. I felt like I could feel the whisper of all the arthropods mentioned in this collection - sharp, dusty detritus from memories that made up her life.
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Review pending.
Jun 09, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2009
It took me a little bit to get into the book. At first, it felt like something was missing or the poems were pushed too hard (“I have my back to you,//my arm around my mother’s grief:/the ribs of the umbrella are showing,/sharp as rain”). But over time, the book opened up and the words became solid and the grief became believable. The poems do not have much flash or punch in them, it’s more like a soft narrative of sorrow and slowly losing love. I think their prime medium would be read on a soun ...more
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
In this poetry collection, Claudia Emerson gives a heartbreakingly accurate portrayal of life after something significant has come to an end. She takes up the cause of the micro change, using these incremental life adjustments to discuss greater emotional realities. Even if you are someone who has never experienced the despair that death, divorce, or the end of a long-term relationship can bring, you will find a poem that is meaningful to you because of Claudia Emerson's skill with evoking image ...more
Twila Warner
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
54 pp. These poems are spare and beautiful. They felt like a Wyeth painting, deeply quiet, lonely. The images are the common made lovely by sharp attention to detail and unexpected comparison. I borrowed the book as part of an exchange through my poetry workshop, read the first poem and ordered it for my shelf.
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful book. Sensitive, true experiences with animals throughout this book: snakes, turtles, hawks...and of course ghosts of people.

Sorry to see that Claudia passed away of colon cancer at only 57 years-old.
Robert Beveridge
Claudia Emerson, Late Wife (Louisiana State University Press, 2005)

I've had very little patience with review-writing for the past six weeks or so, and thus I let this review go unconscionably long (I finished the book on April 30th and am writing this on June 10th). Thus, I've forgotten most of the phrases I was turning over in my mind. I do know, however, they all involved heaping a great deal of praise on Late Wife, Claudia Emerson's most recent book and the winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize f
For three years you lived in your house
just as it was before she died: your wedding
portrait on the mantel, her clothes hanging
in the closet, her hair still in the brush.
You have told me that you gave it all away
then, sold the house, keeping the confirmation’
cross she wore, her name in cursive chased
on the gold underside, your ring in the same

box, those photographs you still avoid,
and the quilt you spread on your borrowed bed –
small things. Months after we met, you told me she had
Theddy Blanc
Poetry often comes of as pretentiously abstract, symbolism forced for fame. Claudia Emerson, however, throws such an accusation completely out the window. As her book long collection of poems chronicles the heart of woman who journeyed from a frigid relationship to a new found love. “Late Wife” is a series of epistles divided into three sections; the first about the divorce, the second about her transition and the third about her new love. The book thrives on its beautiful imagery and visceral l ...more
Mia Tryst
May 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Emerson deserved the Pulitzer Prize for this book. At first I was put off by the narrative, prosey style of her poetry but it grew on me; her lines are brilliant, well paced, her caesurae are precise and her insight is stunningly, beautifully captured. It feels as if she places the reader in the moment, grabs our attention and never lets go. She engages our aesthetics of the normal daily things and shows us what a simple metaphor/observation can do. Emerson is a master of her craft. This book is ...more
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2012
A really focused and emotional collection filled with nature and domesticity, the routine of the natural world and the routine of death and loss. Really admire Emerson's epistolary style and three part division of the poems.

My favorite poem: "Natural History Exhibits"

From the first stanza:

"Sometimes they used the hoe, or the dull blade
of a shovel, a stick of firewood, sometimes
the handle of the broom. I grew up around
women who would kill any snake, never
mind what the men said about moles and mic
Apr 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
this is an amazingly delicate and powerful collection -- emerson's tight focus on each poem's central image and her overall use of the structure of a house infiltrated by birds, snakes, bats, termites, etc. as a metaphor for a dissolved marriage create for the reader a very particular space for this series of poems to inhabit. the language emerson uses is straightforward and clear when necessary and gently embellished when effective. as i am working on a collection surrounding a single event, th ...more
Catherine Limbsombe
One word for this book: High powered.
Divorce, however quotidian, is a high explosive.
The author wields the handle of the divorce sword to the hilt. Hight divorce. Hight Claudia Emerson. 662 dictionary. My music word of the entry: Rubato, which means stolen For Emerson, the only time "robbed" and of what - though are the present moments without her loved one. Something is stolen, but something is gained. Rubato. The way the ground is stolen, say, of a head of lettuce, at the end of a season, leav
Aug 21, 2009 rated it liked it
A very straightforward and plain collection in a lot of ways (the language isn’t plain, but transparent) but also formal in other ways. The organization is interesting—the first section details a marriage, as well as the dissolution of a marriage. The second section, I would describe as surviving loss. And the third section is finding happiness beyond loss. But there’s this crazy simmering rage throughout the book too. I get the feeling Emerson is REALLY pissed off. . . . Which is fine of course ...more
Jul 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Since most books of poetry are so slim, and can sometimes take a few readings to really absorb all the imagery, I read them a few times over a week or so, before I actually consider them “read.”

These poems span the gap between a relationship falling apart/ending up in divorce, and a new relationship beginning/moving in together. They are calm and point blank; the honesty of hindsight. They are sparse and stripped, as one’s emotions would be. Not outwardly exclamatory or emotional, but quite powe
Jul 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Borrowed and read this in late May & early June, from a poet who pressed it on me, knowing I would love it. Poems of love, bitterness, and grief from a lost relationship and of acceptance, and then ability to have a new relationship and cope with that lover's "late wife," her undeniable presence.

I wrote in my own blog about loving "Photograph: Farm Auction" with a pitchfork in it that resembles the mouth of a baleen whale! I love this kind of book with sharp visual images and sustained mini-
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I don’t always agree with the Pulitzer committee, but this collection deserved the prize. Clear, sharp, poignant, often sad, but so beautifully expressed poems that I savor them. Emerson graduated from UVa 5 years after I did, but because so many of the poems are rustic, about country life and farm routine, they feel older than she is or maybe simply timeless. At first I thought “late wife” was a clever way of referring to herself after she and her husband split, but later in the book we learn a ...more
Bryan Brunati
Mar 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
"Late With: Poems" by Claudia Emerson is a fantastic collection of poems that takes you on a journey from the end of one part of life to the start of another. We get to travel on the road that Emerson has layed out for us and are allowed to read the ups and downs that Emerson expierences within her life but is highlighted by her marriages. I found how every poem followed the previous one to be fantastic and I would like to write a collection of poems that work together to create a beautiful jour ...more
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This collection of poems was beautiful, especially the last section, which is a collection of poems about the author's late wife and how her absence is still a presence in her life and the life of her husband. The poems were beautiful, easy to relate to and understandable. I'm really glad I stumbled upon this at the library. Read the poems twice, once more immediately following the first reading. The first reading is for feeling the language and the cadence and the second reading is for digestin ...more
Josh Shearer
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
A deep collection of poems from the life of Emerson. It begins with a look at her pre marriage life and her first marriage. The second section focuses on after her divorce and the life she led looking for her purpose, her meaning. The last section is her life with her new husband, her most current marriage. It's well written and structured in such a way that importance and depth of these poems and the stories they talk about are meaningful to Emerson. Evocative and stirring.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Native Guard: Poems
  • Repair
  • Practical Gods
  • Different Hours
  • Moy Sand and Gravel
  • Walking to Martha's Vineyard
  • Delights and Shadows
  • The Simple Truth
  • Blizzard of One
  • Alive Together
  • Thomas and Beulah
  • The Waking: Poems: 1933 - 1953
  • Kyrie: Poems
  • Donkey Gospel
  • All-American Poem
  • Selected Poems
  • Stag's Leap: Poems
  • Black Zodiac
Born and raised in Chatham, Virginia, Claudia Emerson studied writing at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Her poetry, steeped in the Southern Narrative tradition, bears the influences of Ellen Bryant Voigt, Betty Adcock, and William Faulkner. Of the collection Late Wife (2005), poet Deborah Pope observed, “Like the estranged lover in one of her poems who pitches horseshoes in the dark ...more
More about Claudia Emerson...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »