One year ago today, the poetry collection frank: sonnets won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Widely recognized as one of the biggest honors in the arts world, the prize could not have gone to a more worthy poet: Diane Seuss.
Diane Seuss is a highly-acclaimed American poet whose work has been published in Poetry, The New Yorker, and Literary Hub, among other places. So far, she has come out with five poetry collections, among them Four-Legged Girl, Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl, and of course frank: sonnets. Diane is known for her inventive use of and mastery of language, which she uses to explore often difficult topics in an expansive and elaborative way.
Four-Legged Girl, Diane’s third collection, was inspired by Myrtle Corbin, a girl from 1868 who joined the circus because she was born with four legs. In this collection, Diane explores topics such as the female body as a spectacle, loss (both of her father and a former lover), and the landscape of New York City during the AIDS crisis. Four-Legged Girl was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
In Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl, named after the Rembrandt painting of the same name, Diane begins each section with an image taken from within the painting. Unpacking individual elements of the painting that one might not see at first glance, Diane simultaneously examines the dark parts of life that we may not normally look straight at.
Unpacking individual elements of the painting that one might not see at first glance, Diane simultaneously examines the dark parts of life that we may not normally look straight at.
frank: sonnets, Diane’s most recent collection, is a collection of 128 poems, all sonnets. Though in each sonnet she is restrained to fourteen lines, some of these lines are exceptionally long, allowing her to deeply delve into topics typically pushed to the margins of society: abortion, grief, and addiction, to name a few. As she rebels against the constraints of the form, she rebels against those very same constraints as they show up in society.
As FF2 guest poster Anne Graue describes, “Voices, visions, and visionaries all take their places in these poems that carry great force, and each piece has a distinctive narrator that reveals life’s cloying moments and memories, those times that never leave us, that seem to replay themselves on an endless loop, revisiting things that hurt and destroy as well as what might heal.”
No doubt because of this exceedingly powerful use of language, frank: sonnets won the Pulitzer Prize last year. It also won the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, among a wide variety of other acclaims.
In the digital age, language is often shortened and condensed, be it into word limits for posts, text messages, emojis, or acronyms, making Diane’s expansive use of language all the more special. Whether it is to obtain a deeper understanding of life and the world around us, or to rediscover words we thought we knew, Diane is the one to turn to.
© Julia Lasker (3/2/2023) FF2 Media
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Read Anne Graue’s review of frank: sonnets here.
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Featured photo: Still Life with Peacocks, Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1639. Public domain.