Poet Stephen Dunn Discusses his Path

February 02, 2011

Stephen Dunn and Carol Frost
Photo by David Noe

Pulitzer Prize winning poet Stephen Dunn describes his path to writing as “most unlikely.” Raised in a family without books, the first in his family to go to college (on a basketball scholarship), Dunn served in the armed forces, played professional sports and later worked as a copywriter in advertising. Then, after a friend completed his graduate school application, he attended Syracuse to study writing with Philip Booth, Donald Justice and W. D. Snodgrass. Perhaps his path explains the style of his poems—a style that former U.S. Poet Laureate and Winter Park Institute inaugural scholar-in-residence Billy Collins refers to as “thoughtful trustworthy poems.”

Dunn’s poems—sometimes funny, sometimes serious—are always thought provoking. During the second installment of Winter With the Writers, he entertained the audience with a variety of readings. “After,” which is the behind-the-scenes story of what happened after Jack and Jill fell down the hill, resulted in a lot of laugher.

“Our mistake was trying to do something together, Jill sighs.
Jack says, If you'd have let go for once
you wouldn't have come tumbling after.
He's in a wheelchair, but she's still an item––
for the rest of their existence confined
to a little, rhyming story.”

After reading a dozen poems, Dunn sat down with Winter With the Writers Director Carol Frost to answer questions submitted by the audience. He discussed the year he spent in Spain at age 27 to see if he could write as well as his writing habits.

“I used to have good writing habits. I wrote every morning for many hours because I had a great teaching schedule and an indulgent wife,” said Dunn. “Now I have less structure … but more success sticking with poems.”

Dunn said he used to complete one of every five poems and now he completes three out of five. “Everything,” said Dunn, “deserves poetry.”

When asked about his greatest inspiration in life, Dunn answered in keeping with his thoughtful, candid poetic style: “If I waited for inspiration, I’d only write a few poems a year!”

2011 Winter With the Writers Continues

Events include master classes at 4 p.m. and readings, on-stage interviews and book signings at 7:30 p.m. Both are free and open to the public. Master classes and author readings and interviews will be held in the Bush Auditorium. Guests are encouraged to arrive early for the readings, as seating is limited. For more information, visit the Winter With the Writers website at www.rollins.edu/winterwiththewriters or call 407-646-2666.

By Ann Marie Varga

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For more information, contact news@rollins.edu.

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