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University of Mary Washington professor wins Pulitzer for poetry
The Associated Press (apwire)     Print Article 
Published 2006-04-18 17:53 (KST)   
MICHAEL FELBERBAUM

RICHMOND, Virginia

For three years, Claudia Emerson took her handwritten letters reflecting on her failed marriage of 19 years and her blossoming relationship with her second husband and taped them to the walls of her home and office.

The letters, which were never sent, ended up in her book of poetry, ''Late Wife,'' for which the 49-year-old English professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, earned a 2006 Pulitzer Prize, announced Monday.

For ''Late Wife,'' the Chatham, Virginia, native drew on the complex emotions of two people trying to rekindle a love they once believed was gone from the world.

''It's a very personal book for me,'' Emerson said. ''The book says a lot about my life. ... Sometimes the subjects just present themselves, I process the world through poetry.'' Poetry about her divorce and new husband Kent Ippolito's loss of his first wife to lung cancer comprise the 54-page book published by Louisiana State University Press in September. It is Emerson's third published collection.

''We both came to the relationship with sadness,'' she said. ''I know that for my husband, the risk was doing something public with something very private.'' Emerson said the letters to her ex-husband were not those of a vengeful ex-wife: ''I don't think they'd be very good if they had been sharply written,'' she said. She points to ''Artifact'' as a poem that is representative of the collection: ''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.'' Emerson is a graduate of the University of Virginia and earned a master's degreefrom the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

The prize comes with a cash award of US$10,000 (euro8,270) and is given by Columbia University on the recommendation of the 18-member Pulitzer board. Juries in each category pick the finalists.

Emerson joins such previous winners as Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Sylvia Plath and Elizabeth Bishop.

In the arts categories, the fiction prize went to ''March,'' Geraldine Brooks' novel imagining the life of the father in Louisa May Alcott's ''Little Women.'' Caroline Elkins won in general nonfiction for ''Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya.'' There was no drama award this year.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter The Associated Press

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