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The Writers Forum at SUNY Brockport

Stephen Dunn -- Poet

Host(s): Stan Sanvel Rubin

Tape order number: V-1397

Visit Date: February 13, 1997

Brief Summary: Dunn talks about the challenge of writing about "happiness," which he characterizes as the great delusion of Americans. He wants to distinguish himself from middle class American poets who, he says, sometimes focus on a kind of suffering that is not authentic or true to their experience as a whole. Dunn says he began writing out of a sense of disconnection, a realization that others did not share his experience of the world. He describes the movement of his writing from the surreal image-driven spare poetry of his early years toward forms that allow more "talk," more abstraction, and more direct discussion of idea. He acknowledges the influence of dialectical thinking and the role of persona in his work. He hopes to write for a "new tribe" of readers who share fragmented lives and fragmentary concerns.

Work(s) Discussed:

  • Loosestrife: New and Selected Poems
  • Walking Light: Essays and Memoirs
  • Riffs and Reciprocities
  • Between Angels

Work(s) Read:

  • "Happiness"
  • "Something Like Happiness"
  • "Democracy/Rights"
  • "Personal"
  • excerpts from "Loosestrife"

Writers mentioned:

  • Nietzche
  • Philip Booth
  • Donald Justice
  • W.D. Snodgrass, Pavese
  • Ezra Pound
  • William Stafford
  • Wallace Stevens
  • William Carlos Williams
  • James Joyce
  • William Faulkner
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Dave Smith
  • John Ashbury

If we serve in any way, one of the ways we serve is to articulate that which is there, not what is impossible or fabulous, that which is there but not easily seen.

-- Stephen Dunn

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