Figure Studies

Overview

"Claudia Emerson begins Figure Studies with a twenty-five-poem lyric sequence called "All Girls School," offering intricate views of a richly imagined boarding school for girls. Whether focused on a lesson, a teacher, or the girls themselves as they collectively "school" - or refuse to - the poems explore ways girls are "trained" in the broadest sense of the word." "Gossips," the second section, is a shorter sequence narrated by women as they talk about other women in a variety of isolations; these poems, told from the outside looking in,
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Figure Studies

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Overview

"Claudia Emerson begins Figure Studies with a twenty-five-poem lyric sequence called "All Girls School," offering intricate views of a richly imagined boarding school for girls. Whether focused on a lesson, a teacher, or the girls themselves as they collectively "school" - or refuse to - the poems explore ways girls are "trained" in the broadest sense of the word." "Gossips," the second section, is a shorter sequence narrated by women as they talk about other women in a variety of isolations; these poems, told from the outside looking in, highlight a speculative voicing of all the gossips cannot know. In "Early Lessons," the third section, children narrate as they also observe similarly solitary women, the children's innocence allowing them to see in farther than the gossips can. The fourth section offers studies of women and men in situations where gender, with all of its complexities, figures powerfully.
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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Jim Beschta
Figure Studies is rooted in the fundamentals of fine writing: word economy, solid imagery with distinguishing detail, clear narration, implication that extends the work into the reader's imagination beyond the final written word. Vivid description lies at the base of its success. In Emerson's hands, however, description is a fundamental tool, one that underpins, for example, the introduction of accessible narrative. "The woodpile on the porch dwindled/to its last layer; she had not replenished it//for a month and could see beyond it windblown ice/in the shed where the axe angled Excalibur-like,//frozen in the wood." Note also here, on a secondary level, the poet's control of sound and phrasing. The precision of specificity, the artist's eye paradoxically objective and interpretive, also serves as the foundation of the suggestion so essential to all artistic forms. In "Piano Fire," Emerson says, "We watched the keys catch, furious and all/at once, heard in the fire a musiclike relief//when the several tons of tension let go, heat/becoming wind in our faces." The ultimate insight of the passage is embedded in the narration and elicited from the individual reader through his/her empathy with and interpretation of the event. Centered on female characters and experiences, this clearly organized collection is universal in its appeal and insight. Figure Studies reinforces Emerson's position as a significant voice in contemporary American poetry and proves to be a worthy follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning Late Wife. Reviewer: Jim Beschta
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807133606
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2008
  • Series: Southern Messenger Poets Series
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 588,187
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Claudia Emerson is also the author of Late Wife, winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize, and Pharaoh, Pharaoh. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Southern Review, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, New England Review, and other journals. The recipient of a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts, she holds the Arrington Distinguished Chair in Poetry at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

LSU Press

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Table of Contents

The Mannequin above Main Street Motors 1

I All Girls School

The Physical Plant 5

Headmaster 6

Housemother 7

Anatomical Model 8

The Girls Dissect the Eye of a Cow 9

Latin Teacher 10

Beginning Sculpture: The Subtractive Method 12

Warmbloods 13

What They Are Missing 14

Living Nativity 15

Organist 16

Communion Sunday Buffet 17

The Well: Egg and Tongue 18

Upper Arcade 19

Biology Lesson 20

Orchid Anatomy 21

Influenza 22

Practice Rooms 23

Physical Education 24

Synchronized Swimming 25

Environmental Awareness: The Right Whale 26

History Lesson 27

Esto Absoluta 28

Fire Drill 29

Reunion Weekend 30

II Gossips

Funny Valentine 33

Anorexic, Farmers' Market 34

Old Proof 35

What They Want 36

III Early Lessons

The Polio Vaccine, Chatham, Virginia, 1964 41

Cat Lady 42

Piano Fire 43

Elevator Operator, Danville, Virginia, 1964 45

Finger of Mercury 46

Iv

Triptych 51

After the Affair

Studio

The Garden

Sewing Bird 53

Photographer 55

At the Route One Flea Market 57

Womanless Beauty Pageant at the Volunteer Fire Department 58

Maintenance 59

Spring Ice Storm 60

Great Depression Story 62

The Medical Venus 64

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