Lynn Emanuel is the author of several volumes of poetry. She sees her Hotel Fiesta (1984), The Dig (1992), and Then, Suddenly— (1999) as a triptych exploring the convention and flexibility of the book, and the agency of readers and writers. As poet Eavan Boland notes, “Lynn Emanuel’s poems have a rare power: they connect to the world through estrangement.”
The Dig received the National Poetry Series Award. Emanuel’s work has also been awarded a Pushcart Prize and has been featured in several Best American Poetry anthologies and the Oxford Book of American Poetry. She has received two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Eric Matthieu King Award from the Academy of American Poets.
Emanuel writes poems concerned with ideas of movement and identity. “What I always look for in my work,” she says, “is tension, the tension between, for instance, a transparent narrative and a number of other possibilities for poems. I’m interested in the slippery text, the multi-vocal text, and the text that can investigate itself and the possibilities of different positions and stances.”
Influenced by Gertrude Stein and Italo Calvino and his If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Emanuel’s frequently work engages the conventions of noir: the recycling of iconic images, the stark color palette, and the tension between stillness and movement, light and grime. Describing the evolution of her work in the context of her increasing intimacy with death, beginning with her father’s death during the composition of Then, Suddenly—, Emanuel says she has largely abandoned the lyric because “with so many dead, it feels grotesque to sing.”
Her recent work, including Noose and Hook (2010), explores violence, the self, and perspective. Noose and Hook includes a long monologue sequence, “The Mongrelogues,” that is told from a dog’s point of view. In Poets’ Quarterly, Adam Tavel described it as “a bizarre alchemy of Pilgrim’s Progress and Berryman’s Dream Songs … in an inimitable dialect that marries the antiquated syntax of John Donne with the phonetic spelling in George Herriman’s ‘Krazy Kat’ comics.”
Emanuel earned a BA from Bennington College, an MA from City College of New York, where she studied with Adrienne Rich, and an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She has taught at the Warren Wilson Program in Creative Writing, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the University of Pittsburgh.