Stephen Dunn Vacationing with Friends and Playing Tennis
Dunn has said that his poetry explores the "psychological landscapes" of the human mind- the unspoken thoughts and sentiments that we all feel but seldom speak.
Dunn's poems offer small sardonic epiphanies, as in "Old Dogs": "Falling in love produces such anxiety / my friend says, thank God there's sex / for some occasional repose."
His memories, as referenced in "The Last Hours," talk about seeking to avoid "a life of selling snacks, talking snack strategy, thinking snack thoughts."
Poignant truths, as in "What Goes On," are given about a husband who welcomes back his unfaithful wife after she gets cancer, "his wife, who after all had only fallen / in love as anyone might / who hadn't been in love in a while..."
In an interview with Guernica, Dunn stated:
"It seems to me that no matter how perverse or private you might think your attitudes are about anything, if you speak them well there’ll always be a few others nodding. My best experiences with literature as a reader have been when something that I thought was freaky about myself, or something odd or private that I hadn’t told anybody, got articulated or enacted in a poem or story or a novel. It simply brings us into the human fold. Literature at its best is communal in that way. And as much as these poems were written out of a certain personal urgency, I’m always conscious of myself as a maker of poems, thus to some degree a fictionist."
The photos represented on this page show Dunn photographed with and by his confidantes over the years, beginning with his first wife. Dunn's Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection, Different Hours, explores the psychological landscapes that defined of many of these relationships.