Slant-Wise Talk

The poet Stephen Dunn in 1999. He specialized in poems about surviving, coping with and looking for meaning in the ordinary passages of life. Credit…Bernard Meyers. [NYTimes caption]

Saying things that are graspably cockeyed is my kind of self-expression. Doing so skirts peekaboo obscurity and affectation constantly, but sometimes it feels like it’s working and those moments make me feel interesting.

“Even your most serious problem,” [Stephen Dunn] said, “very few people are going to be interested in unless you yourself, in the act of writing the poem, make some discoveries about it.”

I like knowing that Stephen Dunn’s three major influences were Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens and Theodore Roethke. Two of those have been mine.

“In a nutshell, Frost for his strategies of composition and his quotidian yet philosophical investigations,” Mr. Dunn wrote. “Stevens for teaching me that, if the music was right, I could love poems I didn’t understand. Roethke for his sensual playfulness, but finally for his lyrical meditations, and his phrasing; yes, Roethke most of all.”

Stephen Dunn, aging lover of basketball, wrote this:

… your legs hanging from your waist
like misplaced sloths in a country
known for its cheetahs and its sunsets.

And this, on turning 60 in 1999:

The millennium,
my dear, is sure to disappoint us.
I think I’ll keep on describing things
to ensure that they really happened.

(Neil Genzlinger, “Stephen Dunn, Poet Who Celebrated the Ordinary, Dies at 82,” NYTimes, 6-25-21)

(c) 2021 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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