Stephen Dunn


In 1939, Stephen Dunn was born in New York City. He earned a BA in history and English from Hofstra University, attended the New School Writing Workshops, and finished his MA in creative writing at Syracuse University. Dunn has worked as a professional basketball player, an advertising copywriter, and an editor, as well as a professor of creative writing.‚Äč  Dunn's books of poetry include Lines of Defense (W. W. Norton, 2014); Different Hours (2000), winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry; Local Time (1986), winner of the National Poetry Series; and Looking For Holes In the Ceiling (1974). Dunn's other honors 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. He has taught poetry and creative writing and held residencies at Wartburg College, Wichita State University, Columbia University, University of Washington, Syracuse University, Southwest Minnesota State College, Princeton University, and University of Michigan. Dunn is the Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Richard Stockton College and lives in Frostburg, Maryland, with his wife, the writer Barbara Hurd. Source


Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear   

   one more friend   

waking with a tumor, one more maniac   


with a perfect reason, often a sweetness   

   has come   

and changed nothing in the world   


except the way I stumbled through it,   

   for a while lost   

in the ignorance of loving   


someone or something, the world shrunk   

   to mouth-size,   

hand-size, and never seeming small.   


I acknowledge there is no sweetness   

   that doesn’t leave a stain,   

no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet ....   


Tonight a friend called to say his lover   

   was killed in a car   

he was driving. His voice was low   


and guttural, he repeated what he needed   

   to repeat, and I repeated   

the one or two words we have for such grief    


until we were speaking only in tones.   

   Often a sweetness comes   

as if on loan, stays just long enough   


to make sense of what it means to be alive,   

   then returns to its dark   

source. As for me, I don’t care   


where it’s been, or what bitter road   

   it’s traveled   

to come so far, to taste so good.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:


Death & Loss

Faith & Hope


Poems of the Everyday

Literary Devices:

Extended Metaphor

a metaphor that extends through several lines or even an entire poem