April 18, 2006 2005 Witter Bynner Fellow Claudia Emerson Wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
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Claudia Emerson, the 2005 Witter Bynner Fellow at the Library of Congress, has won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her volume of verse titled “Late Wife.”
Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry Ted Kooser had chosen Emerson last year as a Witter Bynner Fellow, along with Martin Walls. As fellows, Emerson and Walls each received $10,000, which was granted by the Witter Bynner Foundation, in conjunction with the Library of Congress.
Kooser said, “I’m thrilled to hear the news about the Pulitzer Prize. Claudia Emerson’s poetry is pure and clear, generous and openhanded, moving and beautiful. It deserves the kind of attention the prize will bring it.” Kooser had won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2005 for his book “Delights and Shadows” (Copper Canyon Press, 2004).
The yearly Witter Bynner fellowships are used to support the writing of poetry. Only two things are asked of the fellows: that they organize a local poetry reading in their hometown and that they participate in a poetry reading at the Library of Congress. Emerson and Walls read at the Library on Feb. 24, 2005.
Emerson’s poems have appeared in the literary journals Poetry, The Southern Review, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, Crazyhorse, New England Review and others. Her poetry collections include “Late Wife” (2005), “Pinion, an Elegy” (2002) and “Pharaoh, Pharaoh” (1997), which were published as part of Louisiana State University Press’ signature series, Southern Messenger Poets, edited by Dave Smith.
Emerson has been awarded individual artist’s fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she was poetry editor for The Greensboro Review. She is associate professor of English at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Va.
The funding source for the fellowships, the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, was incorporated in 1972 in New Mexico to provide grant support for programs in poetry through nonprofit organizations. Bynner was an influential early-20th century poet and translator of the Chinese classic “Tao Te Ching,” which he named “The Way of Life According to Laotzu.” He traveled with D.H. and Frieda Lawrence and proposed to Edna St. Vincent Millay (she accepted, but then they changed their minds). He worked at McClure’s magazine, where he published A.E. Houseman for the first time in the United States and was one of O. Henry’s early fans.
This is the Witter Bynner fellowship’s ninth year. Previous fellows were Carol Muske and Carl Phillips (1998); David Gewanter, Heather McHugh and Campbell McGrath (1999), and Naomi Shihab Nye and Joshua Weiner (2000), all appointed by Robert Pinsky; the late Tory Dent and Nick Flynn (2001), appointed by Stanley Kunitz; George Bilgere and Katia Kapovich (2002), and Major Jackson and Rebecca Wee (2003), appointed by Billy Collins; Dana Levin and Spencer Reece (2004), appointed by Louise Gluck; Claudia Emerson and Martin Walls (2005), and Joe Stroud and Connie Wanek (2006), appointed by Ted Kooser.