Sports Illustrated blurb about Different Hours and Stephen Dunn's Basketball Past
"Salvation" by Stephen Dunn
Stephen Dunn once stated, "What basketball and poetry have in common, is that they each provide opportunities to be better than yourself — opportunities for transcendence."
Dunn is no longer able to play basketball due to poor health; however, the days he spent as a basketball player - first at Hofstra and then professionally - influence his poetry to this day in the theme of transcendence or the idea of becoming a better person as evidenced in Dunn's poem, "Salvation."
In "Salvation" Dunn uses simple diction to convey the idea that the speaker (and arguably the reader) deserves more than the empty promises given to him (and us) by religion, society and perhaps, loved ones.
For example, the distraught speaker in "Salvation" refuses "to welcome either retribution or the tease of sunny days." (lines 2-4). In fact, the speaker vows to never again be persuaded by "prayers" (lines 10-11 ) or "someone else's version of salvation" (lines 7-9). The speaker wants those who make such promises to him to be "startl[ed] by how little they asked" (lines 13-15).
Dunn's simple yet powerful language achieves its goal of convincing the reader that the speaker deserves more than just promises because he is better than what others do or ask -and we are too. Like a basketball player channelling his last ounce of energy to make the winning shot, the downtrodden speaker gathers his self-rectitude to rise above empty promises to find his own "Salvation."
In this interview with NPR, Dunn describes how playing college and professional basketball eventually led him to write poetry.