Poet Claudia Emerson begins FIGURE STUDIES with a twenty-five-poem lyric sequence called "All Girls School," offering intricate views of a richly imagined boarding school for girls. Whether focused on a lesson, a teacher, or the girls themselves as they collectively "school"-or refuse to-the poems explore ways girls are "trained" in the broadest sense of the word.
"Gossips," the second section, is a shorter sequence narrated by women as they talk about other women in a variety of isolations; these poems, told from the outside looking in, highlight a speculative voicing of all the gossips cannot know. In "Early Lessons," the third section, children narrate as they also observe similarly solitary women, the children's innocence allowing them to see in farther than the gossips can. The fourth section offers studies of women and men in situations in which gender, with all of its complexities, figures powerfully.The follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning collection LATE WIFE, FIGURE STUDIES upholds Emerson's place among contemporary poetry's elite.