KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kalamazoo College graduate who later taught at the school won one of the most coveted awards in all of poetry and literature.
The Pulitzer Prize for Poetry was almost within reach for Diane Seuss in 2016, when she was nominated as a finalist for an earlier collection of her work. But six years later, the second time is the charm for her.
The Kalamazoo College graduate and professor emerita was watching the ceremony in her living room when her most recent book “frank: sonnets” was announced the winner of the award for 2022.
“I almost felt like I was almost going to pass out. I went and got a glass of water because I was choked up. I sort of felt dizzy and then I called my mom,” Seuss said. “I didn’t really have hopes of that or expectations that at all.”
A major section of this book will travel readers back in time to Seuss’s working-class upbringings in the Niles and Edwardsburg areas.
“It’s a very working class, still rural town. Those are my roots,” Seuss said. “I always acknowledge and honor those roots because they made me.”
The first half of the title honors the late poet Frank O’Hara. But as the second half of the title suggests, the entire book is written in sonnets — a traditional, centuries-old form of rhythmic poetry Seuss uses to tell a contemporary memoir.
“I use that old form to sort of as a container for these segments of my own story,” Seuss explained.
Pulitzer Prize Board members believe “frank: sonnets” is “a virtuosic collection that inventively expands the sonnet form to confront the messy contradictions of contemporary America, including the beauty and the difficulty of working-class life in the Rust Belt.”
While the book received many other awards, Seuss said this one is special.
“I read a lot, but I’ve also experienced a lot,” Seuss said. “To bring all of that to the page, and to have that recognized and heard by so many people, it’s just incredibly heartening.”
As of May 10, paperback copies of “frank: sonnets” are temporarily out of stock on Amazon but is available on Kindle. Seuss encourages interested readers to keep an eye out at local bookstores to get themselves a piece of the award-winning work.