Michigan Poet Named Finalist for Pulitzer Prize

Diane Seuss talks about weaving together images of beauty and darkness in “Four Legged Girl.”

Credit: Gabe Montesanti

Pulitzer Prize jurors are calling the poetry collection Four-Legged Girl by Diane Seuss (Graywolf Press) “a richly improvisational poetry collection that leads readers through a gallery of incisive and beguiling portraits and landscapes.” They’ve made Four Legged Girl a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry this year. Seuss is a Kalamazoo College alumna and is currently the college’s writer-in-residence.


Here’s an excerpt from the final poem in the collection, “Oh four-legged girl, it’s either you or the ossuary”:



For, having imagined your body one way I found it to be another way, it was yielding,
but only as the Destroying Angel mushroom yields, its softness allied
with its poison, and your legs were not petals or tendrils as I’d believed,
but brazen, the deviant tentacles beneath the underskirt of a secret queen

On how the image of a four-legged girl tied together the eclectic collection of poems, Seuss tells Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson, “Really, in the end… she becomes an image of poetry itself, of the fierce and unexpected and mysterious source of poetry for me.”

She says it’s surreal being named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

“I still don’t know that I fully believe it,” she says. “I sobbed for a while… It was happy and it was amazing.”

Henderson notes that Seuss’ poems often contain images of beauty and wonder, but also ones of darkness and pain — often within the same poem.

“I guess that’s how life has felt to me,” says Seuss. “I follow the poem. I don’t lead the poem… If I’m following its direction and I’m keeping my focus on the language itself, then that complexity of texture emerges, that complexity that reflects both darkness and beauty.”

“And I guess it’s how I experience things,” she continues. “Maybe it’s a Michigan thing, partly.”

To hear the full conversation, click on the audio link above.