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About Diane Seuss
Diane Seuss’s most recent collection, Four-Legged Girl, was published in 2015 by Graywolf Press. Her second book, Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open, won the Juniper Prize and was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2010. Her fourth collection, Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2018. She has published widely in literary magazines including Poetry, The Iowa Review, and The New Yorker. Seuss is Writer in Residence at Kalamazoo College.
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Titles By Diane Seuss
A resplendent life in sonnets from the author of Four-Legged Girl, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
“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.
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award
Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Diane Seuss’s brilliant follow-up to Four-Legged Girl, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
Still life with stack of bills phone cord cig butt and freezer-burned Dreamsicle
Still life with Easter Bunny twenty caged minks and rusty meat grinder
Still life with whiskey wooden leg two potpies and a dead parakeet
Still life with pork rinds pickled peppers and the Book of Revelation
Still life with feeding tube oxygen half-eaten raspberry Zinger
Still life with convenience store pecking order shotgun blast to the face
—from “American Still Lives”
Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl takes its title from Rembrandt’s painting, a dark emblem of femininity, violence, and the viewer’s own troubled gaze. In Diane Seuss’s new collection, the notion of the still life is shattered and Rembrandt’s painting is presented across the book in pieces—details that hide more than they reveal until they’re assembled into a whole. With invention and irreverence, these poems escape gilded frames and overturn traditional representations of gender, class, and luxury. Instead, Seuss invites in the alienated, the washed-up, the ugly, and the freakish—the overlooked many of us who might more often stand in a Walmart parking lot than before the canvases of Pollock, O’Keeffe, and Rothko. Rendered with precision and profound empathy, this extraordinary gallery of lives in shards shows us that “our memories are local, acute, and unrelenting.”
"Diane Seuss writes with the intensity of a soothsayer." —Laura Kasischke
For, having imagined your body one way I found it to be another way, it was yielding,
but only as the Destroying Angel mushroom yields, its softness allied
with its poison, and your legs were not petals or tendrils as I'd believed,
but brazen, the deviant tentacles beneath the underskirt of a secret queen
—from "Oh four-legged girl, it's either you or the ossuary"
In Diane Seuss's Four-Legged Girl, her audacious, hothouse language swerves into pain and rapture, as she recounts a life lived at the edges of containment. Ghostly, sexy, and plaintive, these poems skip to the tune of a jump rope, fill a wishing well with desire and other trinkets, and they remember past lush lives in New York City, in rural Michigan, and in love. In the final poem, she sings of the four-legged girl, the body made strange to itself and to others. This collection establishes Seuss's poetic voice, as rich and emotional as any in contemporary poetry.