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WALKING LIGHT by Stephen Dunn


Essays and Memoirs

by Stephen Dunn

Pub Date: May 10th, 1993
ISBN: 0-393-03488-7
Publisher: Norton

Dunn, a poet with eight published collections, turns to the essay with appealing diffidence but without anything especially startling or even lovely to say. The author sticks closely to a kind of folksy revelation (``The Truth: A Memoir'' consists of the personal stories he has embellished over the years, and this essay links up with ``Artifice and Sincerity,'' in which Dunn sets up the straw man of sincerity only to knock it down with the charger of imagination) or else to the memories of his childhood in Queens, lone gentile in a neighborhood of Jewish kids, making his way into individuality by means of basketball and then poetry. Dunn's about as pure a product of the American Workshop style as you can find—and his essays have a homogenized, can-you-believe-that? approach peculiar to the poetry of this style: language at simmer, colors as dull as the Gap's, homiletics dressing up as wisdom (``To know where you are requires imagination. To move well requires skill. Behind both, optimally, should be a sense of history''; ``Lovers are unreliable witnesses, which is why reliability is not always to be desired''). The essays—many first published in AWP, the academic poets' house-journal—are nearly impossible to imagine as having been written by anyone other than a tenured American creative-writing teacher circa 1980's.