Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

Tickets are available for Graywolf Literary Gala in Minneapolis on September 19. For more details about the event or to make a gift in honor of our 50th anniversary, click here

Book Title

Modern Poetry

Author 1
Diane Seuss
Poem Excerpt

If you are like me, to learn of the gods you must
beg, borrow, or steal. Eavesdrop, as gossip
is sagacity, a word I learned from Emily
Dickinson. Don’t underestimate direct
experience. Ants know earth. Dragonflies
know air. A cobbled mind is not fatal.
You have to be willing to self-educate
at a moment’s notice, and to be caught
in your ignorance by people who will
use it against you. You will mispronounce
words in front of a crowd. It cannot be
avoided. But your poems, with all of their
deficiencies, products of lifelong observation
and asymmetric knowledge, will be your own.
—from “My Education”

Diane Seuss’s signature voice—audacious in its honesty, virtuosic in its artistry, outsider in its attitude—has become one of the most original in contemporary poetry. Her latest collection takes its title, Modern Poetry, from the first textbook Seuss encountered as a child and the first poetry course she took in college, as an enrapt but ill-equipped student, one who felt poetry was beyond her reach. Many of the poems make use of the forms and terms of musical and poetic craft—ballad, fugue, aria, refrain, coda—and contend with the works of writers overrepresented in textbooks and anthologies and those too often underrepresented. Seuss provides a moving account of her picaresque years and their uncertainties, and in the process, she enters the realm between Modernism and Romanticism, between romance and objectivity, with Keats as ghost, lover, and interlocutor.

In poems of rangy curiosity, sharp humor, and illuminating self-scrutiny, Modern Poetry investigates our time’s deep isolation and divisiveness and asks: What can poetry be now? Do poems still have the capacity to mean? “It seems wrong / to curl now within the confines / of a poem,” Seuss writes. “You can’t hide / from what you made / inside what you made.” What she finds there, finally, is a surprising but unmistakable love.

Share Title

List Price
Publication Date
Publication Date
Trim Size
Trim Size
6 x 9
An extraordinary new collection by Diane Seuss, author of frank: sonnets, winner of 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.
More by author


  • “I fear that, like Seuss’s first poetry teachers, I may have made Modern Poetry sound too austere. The fight with form is also on behalf of a wildness and richness of life as well as motif. Constraint (poetic or economic) is countered with the pure hedonism of neglected communities and micro-scenes.”—Brian Dillon, 4Columns
  • “The way in which Seuss interrogates longing, nostalgia, memory, loss, relationships makes plain she is someone who has been around the block enough times that we should pay attention.”—Diana Arterian, Literary Hub
  • “Here at the bedside of this dying world, Diane Seuss is one of the exemplars of our modern poetry, and Modern Poetry is a resounding, enduring and yes, beautiful companion.”—Mandana Chaffa, Chicago Review of Books
  • “Diane Seuss’s superb Modern Poetry is no mere survey; it’s a full-frontal seminar on the subject. In these forty-one fiery poems, Seuss takes a deep dive into our inheritance from the Romantic and Modernist lyric poets, like Keats and Hopkins, through Stevens and Plath, ‘the final modern poet.’ Her sizzling (and often funny) task is to insist on the radical differences she savors from those earlier custodians of the melancholy sublime, where Beauty was writ large and meaning can still seem like an academic exercise—or mere fog. The truth in Seuss’s world is gritty, with dirt on its hands, determined by a self-assertive resistance to the Romantic ideal. For every ‘Aria,’ ‘High Romance,’ and ‘Villanelle,’ she counters with a ‘Cowpunk’ and ‘Little Fugue with Jean Seberg and Tupperware.’ She shows us that class, region, race, gender—those identifying features—are not things to be solved or resolved in some transcendental razzmatazz but accepted, embraced. Seuss exposes the falsity of idealized love, of academic coziness, and the grandeur of sublimity by a self-deprecating humor that morphs time and again into a wily, powerful, self-valuing gift.”—David Baker
Back to Table of Contents