DIFFERENT HOURS — Poems by Stephen Dunn (Pulitzer Prize Winner)
Like all good albums, this book has its title track smack in the middle. Dunn’s poems are filled with a kind of
unfurling wonder at his own perceptions. On first reading, it’s very pleasant — simple words, simple phrases,
simple humor. On 2nd reading, the tar begins to seep to the surface — the rhetoric of powerlessness,
of the unwilling spectator, the confused man who has seen too many changes and not enough that helps him
make sense of them. On 3rd reading, familiarity breeds contempt. The name-dropping pokes out; all the songs
start to blur together like separate movements of the same piece of music. Unity is supposed to be good, right?
When does unity become a rut? When does motif morph into child-of-baby-boomer whining. I’ll tell you when.
If you can’t find anything to relate to in these poems, yeah, it’s going to sound a whole lot like
There’s a quiet comfort in reading these poems. The simple, familiar language. The sense of humor that stems
the seep of melancholy. For someone like me, trained in operatic melodramatic fin-de-siecle verbiage of
European literature, Dunn’s words settle on my spirit like a favor that’s been a long time coming — the kind that
feels like a weight lifted off your shoulders.
Or put another way…
O the utter mundane!
O the utterer of mundane!
Name-dropping, and school-boy writing lessons.
Weltschmertz (sp?) and bagels. Oi!
Like fog, drifting, coating
Cuddling dullness and stunted wonder.
Sinatra sings "It was a very good year."
–for red-blooded boys, martinis in hand
Snapping to the band, pretending life is grand.
Artfully big words artfully dropped
Like chocolate morsels; make sure you
Pick up each one. Don’t let them go to waste.
A paragraph at the least for each.
I’m not saying a monkey could do it.
That would be absurd.
They know better than to labor pointlessly.
Who learns from who, then?
But that’s just me, innit…I mean, it did win a Pulitzer.