poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Lynn Emanuel was born in Mt. Kisco, New York, on March 14, 1949. She has 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 wrote: “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 wrote: “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.


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)

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

From Hotel Fiesta by Lynn Emanuel, published by the University of Illinois Press. Copyright © 1984. Used with permission.

From Hotel Fiesta by Lynn Emanuel, published by the University of Illinois Press. Copyright © 1984. Used with permission.

Lynn Emanuel

Lynn Emanuel

Born in Mt. Kisco, New York, in 1949, Lynn Emanuel is the author of several books of poetry, including Then, Suddenly— (1999), which was awarded the Eric Matthieu King Award from the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

     Jill's a good kid who's had some tough luck. But that's 
another story. It's a day when the smell of fish from Tib's hash 
house is so strong you could build a garage on it. We are sit-
ting in Izzy's where Carl has just built us a couple of solid 
highballs. He's okay, Carl is, if you don't count his


I’ve never longed for the annulments of Heaven,
nor for Hell, that orgy of repenting,
but have wanted the loneliness of this
slender room and bed, the cool neatness
of being dead: to be reduced, cleaned out,
a manageable mess, nothing left but knobs
and buttons, the skull an



Even when it’s become a piece of furniture
upholstered in the stiff brocade of rigor mortis,
a corpse blistered with acids into a tapestry,
poked full of holes by bullets, and blurred
by miles of roads, they find it.
They find the body because
there is no where it can go, there