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Book Title

The King's Question

Author 1
Brian Culhane
Age is a gloss on youth.


I step in no book twice


for I'm not the mind I was


even one breath ago.


—from "Glossarium"


  In The King's Question, poet Brian Culhane gathers the sometimes broken monuments of the long dead to describe how the ancient world impinges on the modern. So the Elgin Marbles prefigures the trench warfare of World War I; the lost Library of Alexandria mirrors the loss of the poet's father's library; and the Delphic oracle summons the murmur of a psychotherapist. With skilled formal craft and a daring intelligence, Culhane's poems show the mind profoundly grappling to articulate the right questions, while the gods, as always, deny any certitude.

Selected by The Poetry Foundation from more than 1,600 submissions, The King's Question is the winner of the Emily Dickinson First Book Award, which recognizes an American poet over the age of fifty who has yet to publish a book of poetry.


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Brian Culhane's erudite, accomplished debut, winner of the Poetry Foundation's Emily Dickinson First Book Award

About the Author

Brian  Culhane
Credit: Adam Crowley
Brian Culhane is the author of The King's Question, winner of the Emily Dickinson First Book Award from the Poetry Foundation. Culhane was born in New York City in 1954. His poems have appeared in the Hudson Review, the New Republic, the Paris Review, and elsewhere. He teaches at Lakeside School and lives in Seattle, Washington.
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  • The King’s Question gives us something remarkable in a debut collection: Not the youthful discoveries of a newborn talent, but the mature discoveries of a life lived among the classics.  In these sonorous meditations the philosophers and artists of our collective past—the ones that fascinate us—join with the friends and family of the poet’s past to make a skein of asking. In Brian Culhane’s own words, “You come at last to claim this alphabet from your still kingdom.”  If, as Samuel Johnson held, the end of art is to instruct through pleasing, readers will find an abundance of both in this book.”—John Barr, President, The Poetry Foundation 


This book is made possible, in part, through the Poetry Foundation’s Emily Dickinson First Book Award, which recognizes an American poet over the age of 40 who has yet to publish a book, and by the generosity of Graywolf Press donors like you.
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