- Hardcover: 96 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (January 6, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393240819
- ISBN-13: 978-0393240818
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.6 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,382,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Lines of Defense: Poems 1st Edition
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Pulitzer Prize–winning Dunn’s seventeenth collection is stunning. Divided into four sections, and including the stand-alone “If the Poet,” Dunn asks the big questions, offers contradictory and exploratory insights, and addresses mighty themes throughout. He offers an unnerving realization about what history preserves of life’s grand gestures: “Some of us wanted to drop out, go far away / from integrity’s demands. Others sought strange / consultations with their almost vanished selves.” Dunn is smart without being caustic, partial to the mundane in its glory, and willing to look back without giving up hope: “Just to be clear— / no whining on the journey. / If you whine, you’ll get stuck / somewhere with people / like yourself.” There is a whimsical feel to these poems. That’s not to say there isn’t conviction. Dunn writes of life experienced, and, in that, the uncovering of truth: “I don’t want to be brave, or safe. / I resolve never to fake joy, / or pursue old grief. If I encounter opacity, / I’ll try to smash it with something clear.” --Mark Eleveld
“Stephen Dunn’s fresh batch of poems teaches us that ‘to tell’ is just as good as ‘to show’ if you have something worth telling. These are smart, forceful, meticulously spoken poems that tell us some vital truths about how to conduct our lives.”
- Billy Collins
“Stephen Dunn’s newest poems―retrospective, elegiac, comic, quotidian, tactful, and transcendent―true the self’s comprehensions of its own stories as a sawyer’s jig, file, and hammer true a saw, yet without ever sacrificing tenderness for sharpness (or the reverse). Lines of Defense reconfirms Dunn’s long-held place as one of our most necessary American poets: if he did not exist, we would have to invent him. But―what luck― exist he does.”
- Jane Hirshfield
“Over a lifetime richly invested in poetry, Dunn has mastered his signature take on an artfully colloquial voice that, in the guise of plainspeaking, slyly lampoons our daily pretensions, tenderly empathizes with our daily disappointments, and reminds us that the day-to-day can serve as the gateway to otherness. Lines of Defense is an admirable addition to that life-work, its difficult honesties and wrestlings with conscience lurking under beckoningly, entertainingly casual surfaces.”
- Albert Goldbarth
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I, too, noted a slight change of tone in Lines of Defense. Dunn is entering elderliness, just as rich a time of life, no matter how otherwise it is advertised. I'm older than Dunn, drive, go to the gym and generally out there. But I'm more contemplative. Time does that. Perhaps that is what other reviewers are sensing. Not so much is there of gulls dipping like addicts, passing the old college that looks like an asylum, and that cringer--blood on a white dress (Toward the Verrazano). I have experienced no lack of quality in this book of poems--that same original take of the amused bystander is there--and find as much pleasure in the re-readings as in the rest of the books. And not to count Dunn out: a fine poem just appeared in the New Yorker.
In spite of my long "acqua8intance" with Dunn, I enlarged my knowledge reading The Room and the World, a new book about Dunn and his life in essays by other writers and friends It is a valuable addition to my collection, and I recommend it, as I do Lines of Defense, to others.
"I don't know if it's a coldness / or just the body, overloaded, / tends to shut down, / but as my brother neared death / I felt nothing that resembled grief / Our unfinished business / finished long ago, our love / for each other spoken and real, / there wasn't much more to say / but goodbye, and one morning ; we said it -- a small moment -- and one of us cried." These are poems that will be read, and then read again and shared with others. Unforgettable.
Like fine Irish Whiskey I want to savour an once or so,and a poem, a day but the lure of the expected and then the surprise compressed a month's of one-day into week's gorging.
I have already returned to some poems two or three times and will return to the compleat work often