Off Coldwater Canyon
by C.W. Emerson
A Poetry Box Chapbook Prize Winner – Third Place, 2020
Off Coldwater Canyon explores the emergence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Los Angeles. The poems contained in this small volume hold a haunting, unmistakable relevance for those living through today’s near-universal experience of global pandemic. Echoing an era described by the poet as “the impossible time,” they 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.
About the Author
Poet and psychologist C.W. Emerson, raised in western New York’s Finger Lakes region, now lives and works in Palm Springs, California. Following a varied, non-traditional career path as musician, celebrity assistant, and fundraising executive for The American Foundation for AIDS Research (Amfar), Emerson received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Fielding Graduate Institute in 2007.
C.W. Emerson is the recipient of the C. P. Cavafy Poetry Prize, as well as awards and honors from The Atlanta Review, The Comstock Review, New Letters Press, and others. His work has appeared in journals including Crab Orchard Review, Greensboro Review, december, New Ohio Review, and The New Guard. Off Coldwater Canyon is his first published chapbook.
Early Praise for Off Coldwater Canyon:
Tender is the word I thought of while reading Off Coldwater Canyon. This is the story of a young man, a paradise he found, and how that paradise—the gay community of Los Angeles in the early ’80s—was destroyed by the AIDS epidemic. Emerson’s poetry is so honest, its narrative so clear, that his compassion runs through every line: in the care he gave to his dying friends, the comfort he later tried to offer as a caregiver for strangers, and the blunt descriptions of the hollow aftermath and long road to recovery. This is a big-hearted poet, and a book that remembers and doesn’t look away.
—Amy Miller, Contest Judge, 2020
and author of The Trouble with New England Girls
In this breathtakingly beautiful, heartbreakingly personal elegy to friends and lovers lost in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, C.W. Emerson maps a journey from innocence hungry for experience to experience hungry for lost innocence. Off Coldwater Canyon is not only an elegy to all those men who died too soon, but to a whole lost world of sensuality, possibility, daring. And if there’s no way back to that particular world, Emerson ends his suite of poems with a path that opens toward another.
—Cecilia Woloch, author of Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem
The radiant from which Off Coldwater Canyon 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: While these poems possess the power to make a reader weep, Emerson, himself, never succumbs to a poet’s vainest temptation: to eulogize mourning. Instead, Emerson dignifies the paths of those who have crisscrossed his own with a limpid accuracy that pinpoints and transpierces the essence of our fleeting existence and names 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