KALAMAZOO, MI — A Kalamazoo woman has won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her 2021 work titled “Frank: Sonnets.”

Longtime teacher and writer-in-residence at Kalamazoo College, Diane Seuss was announced the winner of Pulitzer’s poetry category on Monday, May 9.

“It’s nothing I would have ever, ever, ever expected out of life,” Seuss said in an interview with MLive. “It’s hard to feel these things beyond a kind of shock and awe.”

Seuss was a 2016 Pulitzer finalist in poetry for another collection she wrote called “Four-Legged Girl.”

“Frank: Sonnets” is Seuss’ fifth published work.

Seuss describes “frank: sonnets” as a memoir in sonnets. He travels through a number of harrowing experiences in his life, from his father’s untimely death and moving to New York as a young poet to stories of addiction.

“The combination of ‘this is the story of my life,’ which is often heartbreaking, and then that traditional form in a contemporary mode really delivered the book in a way that my previous books hadn’t,” said said Seuss. “I try not to do the same thing twice. I view each book as an evolutionary step, and this one seemed to do just that with this marriage of form and autobiography.

Sonnets are traditionally defined as 14-line poems with a specific meter, or rhythm, and rhyme scheme. And while Seuss’ poems are 14 lines long, she sometimes adheres to the structure of meter and rhyme in the work, but other times deviates from it, she said.

As with some sonnet forms, Seuss said his work also contains turns, or shifts in emotion or thought, as well as couplets. Although, she says, they’re not always delivered in a traditional sense.

The Pulitzer Prize Board’s description of his work calls “frank: sonnets” “a virtuoso collection that inventively expands sonnet form to confront the messy contradictions of contemporary America, including the beauty and difficulty of living worker in the Rust Belt”.

Seuss grew up in Niles and graduated from Kalamazoo College in 1978. She taught in the English department and was writer-in-residence at the college for three decades, until around 2017. She has also taught at the University of Michigan and the University of Washington. in Saint Louis.

According to a description by the publisher, Graywolf Press, “frank: sonnets” is Seuss’ most personal to date.

“These poems tell the story of a life in danger of spilling over the edge of the page, from Seuss’ working-class childhood in rural Michigan to the dangerous allures of New York City and back again,” says Graywolf’s description. Press.

“With sheer virtuosity, Seuss moves nimbly through thought and time, poetry and punk, AIDS and drug addiction, Christ and motherhood, showing us what we can do, what we can pass and what we offer each other when we have nothing left. save.”

Seuss is a 2020 Guggeinheim Fellow. In 2021, she received the John Updike Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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