Visiting Poets

Diane Seuss

Diane Suess headshot. Photo credit: Gabrielle Montesanti

In a 2018 review of Diane Seuss’s Still Life With Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl (Graywolf Press, 2018), Victoria Chang writes that Seuss’s poems “aspire to complicate, drawing connections between unrelated things, flowing in and out and back and away from their initial triggers.” It is this matchless skill for synthesizing apparently disparate images and tones that allows Seuss to seek out a space “where the possible anoints the forehead / of the impossible.” Seuss is the author of five collections of poetry, including the breathtakingly vibrant frank: sonnets (Graywolf, 2021) and Four-Legged Girl (Graywolf, 2015), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She served as the MacLean Distinguished Visiting Professor in the English department at Colorado College in 2012, and is Professor Emerita of Kalamazoo College, where she taught from 1988-2016. Seuss was raised in rural Michigan, which she continues to call home.

Diane Seuss reads on Tue., Mar. 23 at 7:30 p.m. EDT. To register:

Select Poems

Marry dull. Those who retain full access to their imaginations are crosshatched
bitches. They may look good from a certain angle, wearing a tight black slip
as a skin with their furry legs dangling out the bottom and cornflower boots
that originated at some defunct box store and were donated with the soles worn
thin and then stolen—stolen—from a St. Vincent de Paul while a defrocked nun
had her back turned fumigating bras for resale. Don’t marry that. Its boots all
jingle-jangle. It’s not going to loan out its rain hat. Or adopt a calf. I learned to read
at age three. Used a toilet plunger to suck ants out of their holes. One doll danced,
another spoke in tongues. What do you want from me? If you rotate me like a jewel
you will locate the flaw that runs all the way through like a pulsing vein of gold
that brings in the fat-cat colonizers who ruin everything that came before. The fish.
The birds. The actual human people. Don’t marry that. Go for something with half
of an imagination. Half or a fourth. Like Mikel instructed about his ashes: A fourth
to his mother. A fourth to me. I disobeyed, slit the phony box and set all of him free.

—from frank: sonnets (Graywolf Press, 2021)

I hope when it happens I have time to say oh so this is how it is happening
unlike Frank hit by a jeep on Fire Island but not like dad who knew too
long six goddamn years in a young man’s life so long it made a sweet guy sarcastic
I want enough time to say oh so this is how I’ll go and smirk at that last rhyme
I rhymed at times because I wanted to make something pretty especially for Mikel
who liked pretty things soft and small things who cried into a white towel when I hurt
myself when it happens I don’t want to be afraid I want to be curious was Mikel curious
I’m afraid by then he was only sad he had no money left was living on green oranges
had kissed all his friends goodbye I kissed lips that kissed Frank’s lips though not
for me a willing kiss I willingly kissed lips that kissed Howard’s deathbed lips
I happily kissed lips that kissed lips that kissed Basquiat’s lips I know a man who said
he kissed lips that kissed lips that kissed lips that kissed lips that kissed Whitman’s
lips who will say of me I kissed her who will say of me I kissed someone who kissed
her or I kissed someone who kissed someone who kissed someone who kissed her.

—from frank: sonnets (Graywolf Press, 2021)

Poetry Center Reading

Spring 2021