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Before the Sky Darkens


Mock Up Draft of "Wreckage," March, 2000


First Pass Draft of "Before the Sky Darkens," March, 2000

     In an interview entitled “Pulitzer Prize for Poetry: Stephen Dunn,” Stephen Dunn explains that “Before the Sky Darkens” begins with “bemused despair” when thinking about the world.  The poem ends with the speaker realizing that many bad thoughts can often be washed away by one act of kindness from another person.

     The Hofstra University Library's Special Collections' University Archives did not have the handwritten draft (if it even exists) of “Before the Sky Darkens.”  This poem appeared in every step of the editing process of Different Hours.  The first and second drafts of “Before the Sky Darkens” contain the most edits, however.  After the first pass with edits, “Before the Sky Darkens” was no longer edited and appears in the same format in the second and third passes, as well as in its final publication.

      “Before the Sky Darkens” was originally entitled “Wreckage.”  Both titles can be found within the poem’s lines.  Dunn changed the title to “Before the Sky Darkens” on his second edit of this poem.  From the first draft to the second draft, Dunn’s initial edits make the poem’s overall tone become more positive even though it still touches on the negative aspects of daily life.  Another example of this occurs in the third stanza.  By taking out the last line of “It helps.  A little.” in the third stanza, Dunn highlights the positivity that occurs from “a small local kindness.”  Thus, through a major edit of his original draft, Dunn not only changed the title of “Before the Sky Darkens,” but he also changed the overall meaning.