Modern Poetry: Poems

Image of Modern Poetry: Poems
Release Date: 
March 5, 2024
Graywolf Press
Reviewed by: 

Modern Poetry by Diane Seuss presents readers with an autobiographical collection of poems that delve into the life experiences of the poet. Through introspective lyricism and an unapologetic embrace of life's contradictions, Seuss embodies the enduring legacy of romanticism in modern poetry. 

Because this is the poet’s personal journey, we are introduced to Seuss’s teachers, influences, and loves. This includes her literary crush, Keats, which not only situates Seuss within a poetic lineage, but also underscores her dialogic engagement with literary tradition. 

Like Keats, who often infused his poetry with a sense of longing and melancholy, Seuss captures the ephemeral nature of human existence with a poignancy that speaks to the universal yearnings and uncertainties of the human condition. 

Seuss's thematic concerns and artistic ethos also evoke Keats, who was preoccupied with the relationship between art and life and the transcendent power of poetic imagination. Her exploration of love, loss, and the existential implications of artistic creation resonates with Keats's philosophical inquiries into the nature of beauty, truth, and the sublime.

The poems span various stages of Seuss's life, from her "pre-tit" days and dropping out of college, to her present reflections on the act of poetic creation as well as the interrogation of the nature of artistic expression. More than once, Seuss introduces incisive commentary on the role of poetry in the modern world. From “Poetry”:

“. . . It’s really 

kind of a nasty

enterprise. Who wants anyone

else’s hands on their pain?

And I’d rather be arrested

than advised, even on my taxes.

So what

can poetry be now? Dangerous

to approach such a question, 

and difficult to find the will to care.

But we must not languish, soldiers, 

we must go so far as to invent 

new mechanisms of caring.” 

Seuss is not only aware of but attending to (as a true romantic would) her reader. Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet may come to mind. Moreover, her exploration of love and loss tempered by moments of humor and resilience transcends mere sentimentality, instead probing the existential implications of these universal themes and their enduring relevance in contemporary society. Through vivid imagery and candid reflections, Seuss captures the essence of her experiences, from the insecurities of her “cobbled together” life to her journey toward self-acceptance. 

Despite the challenges she faces, the collection is permeated by resilience and self-discovery. Seuss's voice is raw and unapologetic, inviting readers to confront their own vulnerabilities and embrace the complexities of the human experience. With its candid reflections and musical motifs, this collection is sure to resonate with readers who appreciate poetry that is both thought-provoking and deeply personal.