Poets

Search more than 3,000 biographies of contemporary and classic poets.

Lynn Emanuel

1949–

Lynn Emanuel was born in Mt. Kisco, New York, on March 14, 1949. She received an MFA from the University of Iowa, an MA from City College of New York, and a BA from Bennington College.

She is the author of five books of poetry: The Nerve of It: Poems New and Selected (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), winner of the 2016 Lenore Marshall Poetry PrizeNoose and Hook (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010); Then, Suddenly (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999), which was awarded the Eric Matthieu King Award from the Academy of American Poets; The Dig (University of Illinois Press, 1992), which was selected by Gerald Stern for the National Poetry Series; and Hotel Fiesta (University of Georgia Press, 1984).

About The Nerve of It: Poems New and Selected, Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize judges Amy Gerstler, Reginald Gibbons, and Kimiko Hahn write, “Every poem in Lynn Emanuel’s The Nerve of It brims with unfailing invention and virtuoso wordcraft. This volume of new and selected poems is a beautifully integrated whole, the arc of a life: heady, bold, vivid, sexy, intensely envisioned, metaphorically brilliant. The Nerve of It is a witty and courageous body of work."

In his review of Noose and Hook, David St. John writes, “I have long believed that Lynn Emanuel is one of the most innovative and subversive poets now writing in America. Her aesthetic and artistic choices consistently invoke a complex hybrid poetics that radically reimagines the shape of our poetic discourse."

Her honors include two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and a fellowship from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation. Emanuel has taught at Bennington College, Vermont College, and Warren Wilson College, among others. She is currently a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh.


Bibliography

The Nerve of It: Poems New and Selected (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015)
Noose and Hook (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010)
Then, Suddenly— (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999)
The Dig (University of Illinois Press, 1992)
Hotel Fiesta (University of Georgia Press, 1984)
 

By This Poet

12

Inventing Father In Las Vegas

If I could see nothing but the smoke
From the tip of his cigar, I would know everything
About the years before the war.
If his face were halved by shadow I would know
This was a street where an EATS sign trembled
And a Greek served coffee black as a dog's eye.
If I could see nothing but his wrist I would know
About the slot machine and I could reconstruct
The weak chin and ruin of his youth, the summer
My father was a gypsy with oiled hair sleeping
In a Murphy bed and practicing clairvoyance.
I could fill his vast Packard with showgirls
And keep him forever among the difficult buttons
Of the bodice, among the rustling of their names,
Miss Christina, Miss Lorraine.
I could put his money in my pocket
and wearing memory's black fedora
With the condoms hidden in the hatband
The damp cigar between my teeth,
I could become the young man who always got sentimental
About London especially in Las Vegas with its single bridge­-
So ridiculously tender--leaning across the river
To watch the starlight's soft explosions.
If I could trace the two veins that crossed
His temple, I would know what drove him
To this godforsaken place, I would keep him forever
Remote from war--like the come-hither tip of his lit cigar
Or the harvest moon, that gold planet, remote and pure
  American.

The Burial

After I've goosed up the fire in the stove with Starter Logg 
so that it burns like fire on amphetamines; after it's imprisoned, 
screaming and thrashing, behind the stove door; after I've 
listened to the dead composers and watched the brown-plus-gray 
deer compose into Cubism the trees whose name I don't know 
(pine, I think); after I've holed up in my loneliness staring 
at the young buck whose two new antlers are like a snail's 
stalked eyes and I've let this conceit lead me to the eyes-on-stems 
of the faces of Picasso and from there to my dead father; after I've 
chased the deer away (they were boring, streamlined machines 
for tearing up green things, deer are the cows-of-the-forest); 
then I bend down over the sea of keys to write this poem 
about my father in his grave.

It isn't easy. It's dark in my room, the door is closed, 
all around is creaking and sighing, as though I were in the hold 
of a big ship, as though I were in the dark sleep
of a huge freighter toiling across the landscape of the waves 
taking me to my father with whom I have struggled 
like Jacob with the angel and who heaves off, one final time, 
the muddy counterpane of the earth and lies panting 
beside his grave like a large dog who has run a long way.

This is as far as he goes. I stand at the very end 
of myself holding a shovel. The blade is long and cool;
It is an instrument for organizing the world; the blade is 
drenched in shine, the air is alive along it, as air is alive 
on the windshield of a car. Beside me my father droops
as though he were under anesthesia. He is so thin, 
and he doesn't have a coat. My left hand grows 
cool and sedate under the influence of his flesh. 
It hesitates and then...

My father drops in like baggage into a hold. 
In his hands, written on my stationery, a note 
I thought of xeroxing: Dad, I will be with you, 
through the cold, dark, closed places you hated.
I close the hinged lid, and above him I heap a 
firmament of dirt. The body alone, in the dark, 
in the cold, without a coat. I would not wish that on my 
greatest enemy. Which, in a sense, my father was.

Homage to Sharon Stone

It's early morning. This is the "before,"
the world hanging around in its wrapper,
blowzy, frumpy, doing nothing: my 
neighbors, hitching themselves to the roles
of the unhappily married, trundle their three
mastiffs down the street. I am writing this
book of poems. My name is Lynn Emanuel.
I am wearing a bathrobe and curlers; from 
my lips, a Marlboro drips ash on the text.
It is the third of September nineteen**.
And as I am writing this in my trifocals
and slippers, across the street, Sharon Stone,
her head swollen with curlers, her mouth
red and narrow as a dancing slipper, 
is rushed into a black limo. And because
these limos snake up and down my street,
this book will be full of sleek cars nosing
through the shadowy ocean of these words.
Every morning, Sharon Stone, her head
in a helmet of hairdo, wearing a visor
of sunglasses, is engulfed by a limo
the size of a Pullman, and whole fleets
of these wind their way up and down
the street, day after day, giving to the street
(Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh, PA)
and the book I am writing, an aspect
that is both glamorous and funereal.
My name is Lynn Emanuel, and in this
book I play the part of someone writing 
a book, and I take the role seriously, 
just as Sharon Stone takes seriously 
the role of the diva. I watch the dark 
cars disappear her and in my poem 
another Pontiac erupts like a big animal 
at the cool trough of a shady curb. So, 
when you see this black car, do not think 
it is a Symbol For Something. It is just 
Sharon Stone driving past the house 
of Lynn Emanuel who is, at the time, 
trying to write a book of poems.

Or you could think of the black car as 
Lynn Emanuel, because, really, as an author,
I have always wanted to be a car, even 
though most of the time I have to be 
the "I," or the woman hanging wash; 
I am a woman, one minute, then I am a man, 
I am a carnival of Lynn Emanuels:
Lynn in the red dress; Lynn sulking 
behind the big nose of my erection; 
then I am the train pulling into the station 
when what I would really love to be is 
Gertrude Stein spying on Sharon Stone 
at six in the morning. But enough about 
that, back to the interior decorating:
On the page, the town looks bald
and dim so I turn up the amps on 
the radioactive glances of bad boys. 
In a kitchen, I stack pans sleek with 
grease, and on a counter there is a roast 
beef red as a face in a tantrum. Amid all 
this bland strangeness is Sharon Stone, 
who, like an engraved invitation, is asking 
me, Won't you, too, play a role? I do not 
choose the black limo rolling down the street 
with the golden stare of my limo headlights 
bringing with me the sun, the moon, and 
Sharon Stone. It is nearly dawn; the sun 
is a fox chewing her foot from the trap; 
every bite is a wound and every wound 
is a red window, a red door, a red road. 
My name is Lynn Emanuel. I am the writer 
trying to unwrite the world that is all around her.