The King's Question
- “Perhaps the best comment on these thoughtful and shapely poems is a quotation Brian Culhane himself translates from Petrarch: “Little by little, experience dries our tears.” At a time when so many poets condescend to their audience—either by pandering to them in the name of accessibility or snubbing them with a glib, hipper-than-thou obscurity, Culhane pays his readers that high and rare compliment of assuming them to be intelligent, grown-up, well-versed, lettered and humane. It is a compliment I am confident they will rise to, and return.”—A. E. Stallings
I step in no book twice
for I'm not the mind I was
even one breath ago.
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.
- “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