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Luminous Body, Glittering Ash

Luminous Body, Glittering Ash

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By C.W. Emerson

Poetry - Paperback


Luminous Body, Glittering Ash explores the emergence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Los Angeles and the complexities of losing friends, lovers, and family.. The poems in this volume hold a haunting, unmistakable relevance as we continue to navigate a seemingly interminable global pandemic. Echoing an era described by the poet as “the impossible time,” these poems hold out the possibility of survival in the midst of great sorrow and loss, and the attribution of meaning and purpose to the life that remains.

C.W. Emerson’s work has received numerous international honors, including as winner of two prizes from Poetry International: the C.P. Cavafy Poetry Prize (2018) and co-winner of the 2023-24 Summer Chapbook competition. Emerson’s poetry and literary criticism have appeared in books and journals including Harvard Review, Oxford University Press, Greensboro Review, Tupelo Quarterly and others. He is the author of a chapbook, Off Coldwater Canyon (The Poetry Box, 2021) and the prize-winning portfolio, The Thoracic Diaries, forthcoming in Poetry International.

"I was falling in love with the world, and everything in the world was dying", writes C.W. Emerson in Luminous Body, Glittering Ash. A reader will be drawn in by the narrator’s compelling voice in this lyric narrative that captures a moment in history when a man caretakes the lives of those dearest to him, even in the midst of a pandemic, and though he might hope to save them all, it is not within his hands to hold them.  -
Sandra Alcosser, author of A Fish to Feed All Hunger and Except by Nature

This is a poignant debut, a fine-wrought book of poise and lamentation—by turns, erotic, austere, and lyrical—with a keen attention to natural beauty. Its centerpiece poems, “The Impossible Time” and “Coldwater Canyon Suite,” convey the saga of what it meant to be young, gallant, and compass-less in the shocking early years of the AIDS epidemic. Because that was my experience as well, reading C.W. Emerson’s Luminous Body, Glittering Ash, made for a powerful aide-memoire of that daunting, heartbreaking era. Emerson’s intrepid survivor’s task, his elegiac portraiture and vivid witness pierce us out of necessity. - Cyrus Cassells, 2021 Poet Laureate of Texas and author of The World That the Shooter Left Us

The radiant from which Luminous Body, Glittering Ash emanates is the body’s own perishable luminosity, these poems the lyric record of the body’s trajectory as a falling star—meteoric, brief—during the height of the AIDS pandemic. Like those meteors, Emerson convinces us, our transits leave a crypto-crystalline gleam, yet the heart, to be safe, leaves the body, turns invisible, but continues to throw sparks long after it stops. Emerson’s deftly trenchant poems never succumb to bathos but pinpoint the l’heure exquise of our fleeting existence and name it, a quality that destines this collection to become a classic in league with Thom Gunn’s The Man with Night Sweats. - Lise Goett, author of Leprosarium

I don’t know what to say about C.W. Emerson’s poems except that they break my heart over and over again, and then again, and in that breakage, there’s something luminous, always—as if your ability to be broken, in itself, makes us ever more human, ever more broken, ever more human. These poems are brave and beautiful, crystal clear, and deeply mysterious, they embody the sensual and the sacred, without contradiction, without apology. I’m grateful to have them to read and to remind me what it is to be fully alive. - Cecilia Woloch, author of Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem

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