The King's Question Poems

Brian Culhane

Graywolf Press




80 Pages



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Winner of the Emily Dickinson First Book Award from the Poetry Foundation

In The King's Question, Brian Culhane gathers the sometimes broken monuments of the long dead to describe how the ancient world impinges on the modern. So the Elgin Marbles prefigure the trench warfare of World War I; the lost Library of Alexandria mirrors the loss of the poet's father's library; and the Delphic oracle summons the murmur of a psychotherapist. With skilled formal craft and a daring intelligence, Culhane's poems show the mind profoundly grappling to articulate the right questions, while the gods, as always, deny any certitude.


Praise for The King's Question

"The King's Question gives us something remarkable in a debut collection: not the youthful discoveries of a newborn talent, but the mature discoveries of a life lived among the classics. In these sonorous meditations the philosophers and artists of our collective past—the ones that fascinate us—join with the friends and family of the poet's past to make a skein of asking. In Brian Culhane's own words, 'You come at last to claim this alphabet from your still kingdom.' If, as Samuel Johnson held, the end of art is to instruct through pleasing, readers will find an abundance of instructive pleasure in this book."—John Barr, President of the Poetry Foundation

"Perhaps the best comment on these thoughtful and shapely poems is a quotation Brian himself translates from Petrarch: 'Little by little, experience dries our tears.' At a time when so many poets condescend to their audience—either by pandering to them in the name of accessibility or snubbing them with a glib, hipper-than-thou obscurity, Culhane pays his readers that high and rare compliment of assuming them to be intelligent, grown-up, well-versed, lettered and humane. It is a compliment I am confident they will rise to, and return."—A. E. Stallings

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  • Brian Culhane

  • Brian Culhane was born in New York in 1954. His poetry has appeared in The Hudson Review, The New Republic, and The Paris Review. He teaches at Lakeside School and lives in Seattle, Washington.