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Poetry that Awakens,
This review is from: What Goes On: Selected and New Poems 1995-2009 (Hardcover)
When a poet can make me feel uncomfortable and intrigued while reading a poem in the intimacy of my bed I know I have come across something that deserves praise. Stephen Dunn manages to take the most trivial of experiences and dig them into your flesh where they bury seeds of inquiry and reflection. Dunn makes the reader look back on his/her seemingly mundane life experiences and reevaluate the effect it has had in their life. Not many poets have the power to use simple words as a medium of such powerful expression.
Dunn's writing is not complicated in its words, allusions, or symbolism. The simplicity these poems are dressed in makes the message and feeling of them raw and exposing. Since the poems are stripped of heavy abstractness, the reader has no choice but to fully be overtaken by the bluntness of the subject matter talked about in each poem. In "Talk to God" Dunn writes about how humanity should thank God for all he has given, and he addresses that we commit sins because of the knowledge that was granted to us by God. It can be interpreted that the reason we are sinners is because God made us that way. Dunn wants the reader to question "if when he gave us desire,/ he underestimated its power." Dunn also wants the reader to be "sincere" when thanking God for the small beauties that live around us. The reader is pulled in two directions by this poem. God gave us beauty, but he also gave us sin, and we should be thankful for both.
The poems have nothing to hide, nothing to be looked into, only to be felt and thought about. While reading these poems I felt violated, in a good way of course. Dunn addresses love, infidelity, religion, sexual experiences and occasions as mundane as calling a friend, all of which have a sinister and/or erotic sense looming in the background. The poems contain a raunchy, unapologetic demeanor that caused me to tilt my head, widen my eyes, and jerk back a bit while reading them. The collection contains work from Dunn's previous collection as well as a collection of new work. The timelessness of his subject matter has allowed his poetry to still be as gut stirring in his previous collections as it is now and this collection of work encompasses a wide variety of work from his previous collections as well as his new work.