A few years ago poet Stephen Dunn discovered an inclination to be an essayist, "a person who believes there's value in being overheard clarifying things for himself." As he turned to prose writing and the collection grew, Dunn found himself blending thoughts about poetry with musings about his own early experience. Five essays explore the ...
A few years ago poet Stephen Dunn discovered an inclination to be an essayist, "a person who believes there's value in being overheard clarifying things for himself." As he turned to prose writing and the collection grew, Dunn found himself blending thoughts about poetry with musings about his own early experience. Five essays explore the mysteries of composition, the problems and latitudes the poet faces, and the ways in which poetry confers value. The rest are essay-memoirs, touching upon such diverse subjects as basketball, gambling, storytelling, and silence. Though anecdotal, each memoir relates to the poetic mentality. How one walks in a dangerous neighborhood can be analogous to how one moves in a poem. And if one survives the silence of shyness, Dunn convinces us, it can be a storehouse of the unspoken. The title is derived from William Meredith's "Crossing Over." Meredith's speaker, on an ice floe in the middle of a river, says, "I love this fool's walk./ The thing we have to learn is how to walk light."
Publishers Weekly, 1993-03-29 Poet Dunn ( Full of Lust and Good Usage ) links these essays to his practice as a teacher of creative writing workshops; a student once suggested that he write down his insights from class. Perhaps as a result, these pieces seem addressed mostly to fellow poets, imaginatively combining advice, observations and correlations drawn between poetry and such very different things as gambling and basketball. Dunn's prose is amiably conversational (``Here are some poems that lately I've been reading out loud to others''), rather than critical or theoretical, and it is responsive to impulse. While some of his readings of poems are uneven, essays such as ``The Good, The Not So Good'' and ``Some Reflections on the Abstract and the Wise'' find the crucial turns where poems either take flight or fail. His advice to poets includes taking risks (``The act of taking a chance is energizing''), honing craft and avoiding undue obscurity. Because the essays are episodic and casual, it is not at first apparent how contradictory Dunn's various principles are: poets ``must care and not care'' about their audience, address readers in a ``fragmented'' culture in which ``we no longer have a belief system in common,'' yet also follow their own ``best sense of what a poem can be.'' (May)
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