Born in Chatham, Emerson received an MFA at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she was poetry editor for the Greensboro Review. In 1998 she joined the faculty of Mary Washington College (the University of Mary Washington after 2004) in Fredericksburg, where she held the Arrington Distinguished Chair in Poetry. She was a contributing editor of the literary magazine Shenandoah. Emerson has received fellowships from the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.
In August 2008 Emerson began a two-year appointment as Virginia's poet laureate. In 2013, she joined Virginia Commonwealth University as a professor of English. Emerson died of cancer in Richmond on December 4, 2014.
Reprinted with permission of the Library of Virginia.