For Wild Mercy (2011):
WILD MERCY is nature and family -- a dovetail of relationships that merge and separate: girlhood to parenthood, to the frailties of age, and hospital rooms. Emerson's poetry awakens our memories of family, experience, loss. The first horse ride, a late pregnancy, an old barn, a river and a dance with I.V. in tow. Liberally sprinkled with unexpected images, these are lovely poems to savor and then read again.
author of And Freddie Was My Darling
Donna Emerson’s poems in Wild Mercy are like the Holstein heifers she describes making their way up and down the hill, delicate silhouettes, like rivers that demarcate the edges of states, like Grandmother Florence and her sisters…walking into church…solid shapes against stained glass windows. And like them, her poems mark where everything important meets.
author of Mules of Love and The Human Line
In Wild Mercy, Emerson weaves the twin threads of bios and zoë: the life bound by time and mortality, and the life-force that is eternal, binding the generations, the living and the dead. Like its namesake river, Wild Mercy’s poems lead us from a child’s first world, brimming with numinous presences, to those moments of terrible and ineffable wonder that lie nearest grief, but just beyond our realm of knowing.
Terry Ehret, author of Lucky Break
Those of us blessed enough to hear Donna Emerson read her poems know how her soft voice delivers poetry of force. Wild Mercy, a fitting name for a collection of untamed vision and unapologetic empathy for both human and animal, signifies Emerson’s voice of might. While both imperative and valuable, Wild Mercy is a smoothly truthful examination of many of those rough and scratchy places: isolation, aging, illness, adolescence.
Stefanie Freele – author of Feeding Strays; Fiction Editor, Los Angeles Review
For Body Rhymes (2009):
In Body Rhymes, Donna Emerson offers us her marvelous gift for litany, her love of imagery, and a humor that’s always pierced by the sharpest arrow of tenderness. Deeply felt, the twenty poems of this debut collection range across a spectrum of wide experience and connection—daughter, lover, mother, counselor, teacher, and poet. Body Rhymes distinguishes itself by its fierce loyalty to this difficult world, by its compassion, and its keen eye for the truth.
Lynn Lyman Trombetta, author of Falling World
Donna Emerson is a poet who speaks eloquently and elegantly about the body, focusing on sexuality as well as on love and loss. Writing with a righteous anger yet with a tenderness toward the world, she conveys a sense that the words and actions of one person can make a difference, can be redemptive.
Susan Terris, author of Contrariwise
There are moments when you are reading a poem and a description of an ordinary experience begins to resonate with a parallel, but unconscious memory you can feel, but can’t explain. Donna Emerson’s Body Rhymes is filled with just such deep rhymes, expressed with a lyricism that is richly sensual, and emotionally charged. At the same time, her photographer’s eye for detail and her instinct for dramatic dialogue reveal the hand of a skillful storyteller. Whether we are seeing the face of a stranger on a train, feeling the first stirring of sexual awakening, or witnessing a young bride’s despair as she faces terminal illness, what sustains these poems is Emerson’s profound compassion and sense of resilient joy.
Terry Ehret, author of Lucky Break
If you want the rare privilege of spending time with a woman of keen perception who reveals your own heart to you through disclosure of her own, then brew a cup of tea and sit down with Donna Emerson's, Body Rhymes. In her poems, Emerson shares transformative moments of life experience, including, the first stirrings of sexual awakening, in "Morning Ride"; return to the scene of sexual hunger, love and loss in "One Hundred Hudson Street; and the raw, redemptive emotions of facing her mother's death in "She Lay Asleep Wearing Oxygen". I couldn't put Body Rhymes down. I read every poem, in one sitting, and longed for more.
Connie Parsons, MSW, LCSW
For This Water (2007):
Through music, image, and mind, Donna Emerson’s poems tell human stories. What appears, at first, to be a simple telling, opens up into wide vistas of the imagination, captivating qualities of sound, complex emotions and deeper meaning.
Katherine Hastings, contributing editor
Hunger Mountain—A Journal of Arts and Letters
A lilting voice from a new poet. A new daughter is not all that Donna Emerson gave birth to in her 50s. Her poems are loaded with rich imagery and memory.
Susan Swartz, author of The Juicy Tomatoes Guide to Ripe Living After 50
Donna Emerson’s poems—each a small, complete world—reveal their tenderness in detail. The poet William Carlos Williams once said “Perception is the first act of imagination,” and with her photographer’s eye, Emerson invites the reader to see, as if for the first time, what is extraordinary even in the most familiar. But as a poet, she also listens, deeply and intently, to her subject, whether it is a landscape, a memory, or one of those unforgettable souls she has counseled, struggling to reconcile themselves with mortality. And it is with a listening heart that the reader feels with her a wonder at the courage she has witnessed, and inspiration at the truth she captures.
Terry Ehret, author of Translations from the Human Language