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Book Title

frank: sonnets

Author 1
Diane Seuss
Poem Excerpt
Poverty, like a sonnet, is a good teacher. The kind that raps your
knuckles with a ruler but not the kind that throws a dictionary
across the room and hits you in the brain with all the words
that ever were. Boxed fathers buried deep are still fathers,
teacher says. Do without the. Without and. Without hot
dogs in your baked beans. A sonnet is a mother. Every word
a silver dollar. Shit in one hand, she says. Wish in another.
—from “[The sonnet, like poverty, teaches you what you can do]”
“The sonnet, like poverty, teaches you what you can do / without,” Diane Seuss writes in this brilliant, candid work, her most personal collection to date. These poems tell the story of a life at risk of spilling over the edge of the page, from Seuss’s working-class childhood in rural Michigan to the dangerous allures of New York City and back again. With sheer virtuosity, Seuss moves nimbly across thought and time, poetry and punk, AIDS and addiction, Christ and motherhood, showing us what we can do, what we can do without, and what we offer to one another when we have nothing left to spare. Like a series of cels on a filmstrip, frank: sonnets captures the magnitude of a life lived honestly, a restless search for some kind of “beauty or relief.” Seuss is at the height of her powers, devastatingly astute, austere, and—in a word—frank.

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A resplendent life in sonnets from the author of Four-Legged Girl, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize

About the Author

Diane  Seuss
Credit: Gabrielle Montesanti
Diane Seuss is the author of six books of poetry, including Modern Poetryfrank: sonnets, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the PEN/Voelcker Prize; Still Life With Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; and Four-Legged Girl, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She was a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow, and in 2021 she received the John Updike Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Michigan.
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  • “Seuss transforms ‘tragic spectacle’ into something beautiful, visionary, ‘revolting and grand.’”—The Nation
  • “This book is a response to death, a way of living in knowledge of death’s privations. . . . What Seuss is hoping for is an extended enough death to allow for a witty recognition of the shape it is imposing on the life it ends. Beyond that, though, what she wants is enough life to make her death into a kind of ‘last rhyme’, a sound that radiates both into the past and into the future, where it might make contact with your body, or mine.”—Kamran Javadizadeh, London Review of Books
  • “Seuss is at her most moving and morally attuned…”—Harvard Review
  • “This is a writer whose pleasure in building language knocks you over and makes you feel some responsive pleasure…”—Women’s Review of Books
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