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Book Review :: Modern Poetry by Diane Seuss

Guest Post by Aiden Hunt

Acclaimed poet Diane Seuss continues her trend of publishing a new collection every three years with her sixth full-length, Modern Poetry. The title comes from the first textbook she encountered as a child and the first poetry course she took in college. Many of the poem titles are simple, using terminology from that book, like “Ballad,” “Allegory,” “An Aria,” and “Coda.”

As in her collection, frank:sonnets (2021), winner of numerous awards, Seuss plays with form here. A poem called “Villanelle” isn’t one, but begins, “I dreamed I was reading a villanelle / in front of a crowd.” The next poem, however, is titled, “Folk Song,” and it tells a more modern sort of villanelle, or peasant song, “Of selfhood I worked so hard to earn. Of work I worked so hard / to avoid. Of the working class. My class. Its itches and psychological riches.”

Seuss engages the imagination with straight talk about modern life as a working-class woman and relates both her lived experience and her complex relationship with her art in poems like “Ballad That Ends with Bitch,” with her Speaker relating, “At age ten, I turned away from tenderness. / I remember the moment. A flipping of a switch. / My house is a cold mess except for that thing in the corner. / Poetry, that snarling, flaming bitch.”

Modern Poetry by Diane Seuss. Graywolf Press, March 2024.

Reviewer bio: Aiden Hunt is a poet, editor, and critic, writing freelance book reviews and critical essays for literary publications. He is the creator and editor of Philly Poetry Chapbook Review, an online literary journal concerned with poetry chapbooks, their authors, and their publishers.