Stephen Dunn’s unadorned language lends itself to poems of calm observation and steadied self-awareness. As Joel Brouwer writes in the New York Times, “a typical Dunn poem opens up a basic human trouble – a body souring with age, a marriage souring with regret, a believer souring with doubt – meditates on it with equal parts seriousness and good humor, and finally offers not quite consolation but acceptance, a sense of having gained some measure of dignity simply by looking life in the eye”. Born in Forest Hills, NY in 1939, Dunn is the author of 16 books, including Different Hours, which won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
Writing about Dunn’s 1996 collection Loosestrife, Poetry contributor David Baker noted that loosestrife is a flowering plant which overruns other vegetation in its path. This invasiveness runs through much of Dunn’s work, as Baker believes “Dunn’s terror is of a similar invasion into privacy and coherence.”
she’d been identifying patterns
I was unaware of—this tic, that
tendency, like the way I’ve mastered
the language of intimacy
in order to conceal how I felt.
Of Dunn’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Different Hours, G.E. Murray writes: “Balancing a wry and altogether individual sensibility with and against an unobtrusive technical control, [Different Hours] is full of cautious smiles, acquaintance with disappointment, and, as always, a delightfully taut lyricism. Dunn is a force to be embraced.”
Dunn earned his BA in History from Hofstra University in 1962. He attended the New School in New York from 1964 to 1966, and received his Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Syracuse University in 1970. His honours include the Academy Award for Literature, the James Wright Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
Since 1974 he has taught at the Richard Stockton College of NJ, where he is Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing. He has also been a Visiting Professor at the University of Washington, New York University, Columbia, and the University of Michigan.
Here and Now, W.W. Norton, New York, NY, 2011
What Goes On: Selected and New Poems, 1995-2009, W.W. Norton, New York, NY, 2009
Everything Else in the World, W.W. Norton, New York, NY, 2006
The Insistence of Beauty, W.W. Norton, New York, NY, 2004
Local Visitations, W.W. Norton, New York, NY, 2003
Different Hours, W.W. Norton, New York, NY, 2000 (Pulitzer Prize)
Loosestrife, W.W. Norton, New York, NY, 1996 (National Book Critics Circle Award finalist)
New & Selected Poems: 1974-1994, W.W. Norton, New York, NY, 1994
Landscape at the End of the Century, W.W. Norton, New York, NY, 1991
Between Angels, W.W. Norton, New York, NY, 1989
Local Time, William Morrow & Co., 1986 (a National Poetry Series selection)
Not Dancing, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, Pittsburgh, PA, 1984
Work and Love, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, Pittsburgh, PA, 1981
A Circus of Needs, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, Pittsburgh, PA, 1978
Full of Lust and Good Usage, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, Pittsburgh, PA, 1976
Looking for Holes in the Ceiling, University of Massachusetts Press, 1974
Walking Light: Memoirs & Essays on Poetry (Expanded Edition), BOA editions, Rochester, NY, 2001
Riffs & Reciprocities: Prose Pairs, W.W. Norton, New York, NY, 1998
Walking Light: Essays & Memoirs, W.W. Norton, New York, NY, 1993
Poetryfoundation.org: ‘Dismantling the House’
Articles and interviews
New York Times: Joel Brouwer reviews Dunn’s What Goes On: New and Selected Poems
Guernica: Interview with Stephen Dunn