"The sonnet, like poverty, teaches you what you can do / without," Diane Seuss writes in this Pulitzer Prize-winning 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. 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.
What I admire is her character and willingness to observe that which is hard to look at. In frank: sonnets, Seuss transforms 'tragic spectacle' into something beautiful, visionary ... This collection is a catalog of contradictions. Seuss is vulnerable and direct in these poems, but she’s never naive and certainly not stupid ... The way Seuss writes is at times abrupt and devastatingly severe, and still unflinchingly romantic in every awful sense of the word ... Perhaps this is the reason I am so struck by Seuss’s work here: I admire writers who live as a comet, shooting by with 'nothing left to lose.' You can’t make it through these poems and not be affected. They gesture around at the art of everybody’s lives.
Dynamic and deeply original ... Through the limited space of the sonnet, Seuss’s work is to extract meaning from life’s vast brokenness and chaos ... Seuss is at her most moving and morally attuned when she experiences this membrane of mortality opening and reckons with the thinness of life ... Seuss’s poems depicting friends suffering from AIDS are among the most memorable in the book, carrying both the intimacy of a Nan Goldin photograph and the moral urgency of a prayer or biblical scene ... Complex and timely.
One of my first thoughts, when I began reading frank: sonnets and experienced the crash and powerful undertow of Seuss’s lines, is that readers of poetry are sure to soon see imitations of Seuss’s sonnets abounding in literary journals and online—the experience of reading frank: sonnets feels very close to writing; it is a heady, intoxicating experience. Seuss understands the labor of a sonnet’s particular space ... Like a mid-air dancer, Seuss makes the leap look easy ... Seuss transforms what we think of as the sonnet’s landscape ... Part of the joy of reading frank: sonnets is the incredible variety of grammar and form ... The richly historied form of the sonnet is a powerhouse for holding the past ... frank: sonnets is a tour de force and essential reading.