by Anthony Conty (Baltimore, MD): “frank: sonnets” by Diane Seuss (no relation) has incredibly free-range, stream-of-consciousness poetry. Imagine 137 pages of quick, rambling paragraphs where the author casually mentions death and suicidal ideation, only to move on to something else almost immediately.
It would help if you had a degree in English to explain what defines poetry nowadays. We learned by age eight that no one needs to rhyme, but we expect some meter. Seuss’s writing flows more like prose and memory, and we witness her speak of childhood trauma and frenemies in that haphazard way that we always recall our youth.
I had trouble following the story arc because of the reasons above. Obviously, the poet intended to write in an accessible style, but you did not necessarily know what was coming and quickly lost your place. In addition, I did not see that we defined sonnets as 14-line poems, and this book, having 130 separate stories as a part of a memoir, runs together enough that you cannot tell what exists on its own.
Once we hit the halfway point, the tragedies of Diane’s life lessons make things a lot more interesting. She writes about addiction, family drama, and abortion with such skill that you feel bad for wanting more of that. “I remember begging to die when I gave birth and begging to be born when I was dying.” That is profound.
One coworker once complimented me by saying I understood others because I read. The author mentions childbirth, pregnancy, and crushes on men in a way that would have driven me away before, but here it simply provides perspective. According to the observations of other reviewers, I completely missed one of the more prominent themes, which gives a much more depressing, bleak experience, but, man, is Seuss good at painting that kind of picture.