Poem of the Week | October 12, 2015

This week we offer a new poem by Lisa Russ Spaar. Spaar is the author of many collections of poetry, including Glass Town (Red Hen Press, 1999), Blue Venus (Persea, 2004), Satin Cash (Persea, 2008) and most recently Vanitas, Rough (Persea, 2012). She is the editor of Acquainted with the Night: Insomnia Poems and All that Mighty Heart: London Poems, and a collection of her essays, The Hide-and-Seek Muse: Annotations of Contemporary Poetry, appeared from Drunken Boat Media in 2013. A new collection of poems, Orexia, will appear from Persea Books in 2017. Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Award, the Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize, and the Library of Virginia Award for Poetry. She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia.

Author’s note:

My friend, the beautiful poet Claudia Emerson, died at age 57 from cancer in December 2014. Like many who loved her, I was raw with grief in the weeks and months that followed. I was thinking of her one late-winter morning while walking my dog. It was my dog—scholar as she is of all grounded things—who discovered before I did the first snowdrops in my yard, shouldering their way through the previous night’s fresh fall of light snow. Apostrophizing these stalwart blooms allowed me to speak to Claudia, not only of my sadness but also of her great generosity of spirit that I felt consoling me even as I mourned for her, which was her way. Like her beloved husband Kent, Claudia was a musician as well as a poet, and I hoped both might catch my reference to the “blue note,” that mysterious sound that slips through artifice into soul. “Brackish,” of course, refers to tears, but by the poem’s end, the speaker, kneeling, becomes, like the snowdrops, those brave, obeisant harbingers of spring, blessed by Claudia’s courageous, abiding “chord of light,” her poems, her personhood, a bond of love from which I hope never to be cured.



for Claudia Emerson


Eyesome, still in habit
full-druped & greeny,


as you were, first shouldering,
weeks ago, the very night winter,


pinched, sodden, dropped its overcoat,
sooty chilblains, chins of snow,


& yet this morning, just shy
of equinox, in wake of melting,


you, pagan, drunk on sky’s milk,
find me. Temptation of sadness.


Bract, scape, dilator of death’s
fisted rooms, you sing


your blue, your worried note.
As though you suffered for me,


kneeling in pine snuff, in brackish
chord of your light, incurable.