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Walking Light: Memoirs and Essays on Poetry

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Committed to exploring the role of poetry and poets in our culture, Stephen Dunn provides new, expanded versions of the essays originally published by W. W. Norton in 1993, now out of print. In Walking Light, Dunn discusses the relationship between art and sport, the role of imagination in writing poetry, and the necessity for surprise and discovery when writing a poem. Hu Committed to exploring the role of poetry and poets in our culture, Stephen Dunn provides new, expanded versions of the essays originally published by W. W. Norton in 1993, now out of print. In Walking Light, Dunn discusses the relationship between art and sport, the role of imagination in writing poetry, and the necessity for surprise and discovery when writing a poem. Humorous, intelligent and accessible, Walking Light is a book that will appeal to writers, readers, and teachers of poetry. Stephen Dunn is the author of eleven collection of poetry. He teaches writing and literature at the Richard Stockton College in Pomona, New Jersey, and lives in Port Republic, New Jersey.


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Committed to exploring the role of poetry and poets in our culture, Stephen Dunn provides new, expanded versions of the essays originally published by W. W. Norton in 1993, now out of print. In Walking Light, Dunn discusses the relationship between art and sport, the role of imagination in writing poetry, and the necessity for surprise and discovery when writing a poem. Hu Committed to exploring the role of poetry and poets in our culture, Stephen Dunn provides new, expanded versions of the essays originally published by W. W. Norton in 1993, now out of print. In Walking Light, Dunn discusses the relationship between art and sport, the role of imagination in writing poetry, and the necessity for surprise and discovery when writing a poem. Humorous, intelligent and accessible, Walking Light is a book that will appeal to writers, readers, and teachers of poetry. Stephen Dunn is the author of eleven collection of poetry. He teaches writing and literature at the Richard Stockton College in Pomona, New Jersey, and lives in Port Republic, New Jersey.

30 review for Walking Light: Memoirs and Essays on Poetry

  1. 5 out of 5

    R.G. Evans

    My friend Renee Ashley turned me on to this book, especially its chapter "The Good and the Not So Good," and I can honestly say the book has changed the way I write and read poetry. Anyone who dabbles in poetry can sharpen their eye and ear by reading and applying Dunn's ideas. Dunn also dazzles with his skill in memoir. A provocative and enjoyable read. My friend Renee Ashley turned me on to this book, especially its chapter "The Good and the Not So Good," and I can honestly say the book has changed the way I write and read poetry. Anyone who dabbles in poetry can sharpen their eye and ear by reading and applying Dunn's ideas. Dunn also dazzles with his skill in memoir. A provocative and enjoyable read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Texx Norman

    I have read a lot of books of essays by poets. The one before this one was Donald Halls Essays After Eight. That book was mostly essays he'd published. They were not necessarily about poetry, mostly about being eighty. But Walking Light is a delight. If you are a poet, even an unpublished inept poet, but you want to understand poetry better, you want insight into writing, you want lessons from a giant of a poet, then Walking Light is fore you. Stephen Dunn is giving us not only insight into the I have read a lot of books of essays by poets. The one before this one was Donald Halls Essays After Eight. That book was mostly essays he'd published. They were not necessarily about poetry, mostly about being eighty. But Walking Light is a delight. If you are a poet, even an unpublished inept poet, but you want to understand poetry better, you want insight into writing, you want lessons from a giant of a poet, then Walking Light is fore you. Stephen Dunn is giving us not only insight into the craft, but the work is also a Memoir and you gain insight into Mr. Dunn himself. It is a powerful work, a work I will return to again and again. Quotations: "The not so good poem may exquisitely describe a tree or loneliness, but if the description does not suggest an attitude toward nature, or human nature, we are left with dentist office art -- devoted to decoration and the status quo."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This was a very good read. It reminds me that I need to keep reading books by poets. Essays and memoirs by poets teach me not only about writing - but about life! This collection is an interesting collection on everything from the rhythms of poetry. to lying, to basketball, to teaching, to reading. Not only is everything here worth reading for its content...it is written beautifully. I’m very glad I read it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I enjoyed reading Dunn's ideas about writing poetry, in particular "A History of My Silence" and "Basketball and Poetry." I found myself copying down some of his statements as I read, and I am interested in his notions about the use of abstraction in poems and the necessity for a bit of fiction in autobiographical poems. I enjoyed reading Dunn's ideas about writing poetry, in particular "A History of My Silence" and "Basketball and Poetry." I found myself copying down some of his statements as I read, and I am interested in his notions about the use of abstraction in poems and the necessity for a bit of fiction in autobiographical poems.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Megan RFA

    It started strong, but after awhile the essays became a bit repetitive as he recycled the same ideas and even the same phrases.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Tait

    I was sorry when it was over. I could read Stephen Dunn's essays forever. I wanted more. I was sorry when it was over. I could read Stephen Dunn's essays forever. I wanted more.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Klawitter

    My god. This is, hands down, the best book of essays and memoirs on poetry writing that I've ever come across...right up there with Gioa's "Can Poetry Matter?" and Hugo's "The Triggering Town". Ever since I first read Stephen Dunn's poetry, I was impressed by his skill with language and narrative...his ability to engage the reader's attention even in a longer poem...and especially his critical and unsentimental approach to his own virtues and vices. After first reading his poems, I remember feel My god. This is, hands down, the best book of essays and memoirs on poetry writing that I've ever come across...right up there with Gioa's "Can Poetry Matter?" and Hugo's "The Triggering Town". Ever since I first read Stephen Dunn's poetry, I was impressed by his skill with language and narrative...his ability to engage the reader's attention even in a longer poem...and especially his critical and unsentimental approach to his own virtues and vices. After first reading his poems, I remember feeling like if there was one contemporary poet with whom I'd most benefit from taking a class with it would be him. After reading his essays, my intuition has been more than confirmed as correct. Among the many, many passages in this book that reward contemplation, here are just a few: "We can go months, even years, without ever being crucially spoken to. The simplest good poem is a small correction of that." "Some things I know: If you go into the casino with one hundred dollars, don't expect to win a thousand. If you approach poetry writing without reading great poetry, you will reach, at best, the level of your ignorance." "I have distrusted 'sincere' people for as a long as I've encountered them, people who begin sentences with 'In all candor...' and conclude them without a deep enough sense of it...In poetry, likewise, I've distrusted the unadulterated heartfelt utterance." "...what is dangerous in marriage is almost always desirable in poetry. One difference between a marriage and a poem is that a poem is place for various kinds of permissions; it welcomes anything that cooperates or is in tension with something else." "The poet must not love difficulty. That's the solipsism of the prig, the person who believes he/she has something so precious it's worth concealing...we are always writing to fulfill our best sense of what a poem can be, against and in light of our predecessors. But it seems to me we must care and worry if we find that, as poets, we're talking only to each other." "Often the not so good poem suffers from what may be called the egalitarian error; in its desire to be compassionate and fair it becomes merely correct."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    An interesting mix of memoir (fewer in number here) and essays (greater in number). The memoir pieces touch on Dunn's fascination with basketball and poetry, as well as his introversion (how odd for a poet to be an introvert!) and his father, a Willy Loman type with a penchant for gambling. Mostly, though, it's Dunn's opinions on poetry peppered with poems, some of his own and more of others. What I like is how essays on poetry often put me on to poets I don't know or don't know so well. I loved An interesting mix of memoir (fewer in number here) and essays (greater in number). The memoir pieces touch on Dunn's fascination with basketball and poetry, as well as his introversion (how odd for a poet to be an introvert!) and his father, a Willy Loman type with a penchant for gambling. Mostly, though, it's Dunn's opinions on poetry peppered with poems, some of his own and more of others. What I like is how essays on poetry often put me on to poets I don't know or don't know so well. I loved two poems he included by Anna Akhmatova ("Summer Garden" and "Close") so added her book You Will Hear Thunder to my list. Ditto some works by Adrienne Rich, Ted Hughes, and Charles Wright. If you teach, there's an interesting essay on teaching poetry called "The Poet as Teacher: Vices and Virtues." He likes (or for all I know "liked" by now) to tell his poetry students, "Your poem effectively begins at the first moment you've surprised or startled yourself. Throw away everything that preceded that moment, and begin with that moment." Dunn believes that teaching only hurts your poetry if you start thinking of yourself more as a teacher than as a poet -- good news for the poet, maybe, but not so much the students. He also argues that you cannot really teach someone to be a poet. In other poems, he tackles things like the love poem (yawn) and what the word "grace" means. This one I liked because, like Dunn, I don't see an awful lot of grace in the world. That makes it stand out all the more when I do. Lots of quotable quotes -- both Dunn's and others'. He unloaded his notebook for this one. It's like taking his course (or attending one of his seminars, which I know he did at one time) and worth a look-see if you're into the science and soul of poetry.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Julene

    Great book of essays about writing poetry with lots of great quotes and practical inspirational details for any poet. I took lots of notes since I've had it from the library and if I come across it 2nd hand will definitely get myself a copy. The essays that are memoir were engaging perspectives on his experiences growing up in Forest Hills, Queens, NY, an area I am familiar with. He is a different generation so the perspective of power dynamics was intriguing to me to read. He also had a great c Great book of essays about writing poetry with lots of great quotes and practical inspirational details for any poet. I took lots of notes since I've had it from the library and if I come across it 2nd hand will definitely get myself a copy. The essays that are memoir were engaging perspectives on his experiences growing up in Forest Hills, Queens, NY, an area I am familiar with. He is a different generation so the perspective of power dynamics was intriguing to me to read. He also had a great chapter on gambling and family secrets. I highly recommend this book. From reading Stephen Dunn’s book on writing poetry, “Walking Light: Essays and Memoirs,” I realized the essential difference in my experience of writing poetry versus fiction. From his chapter, “The Good, the Not So Good,” I quote, “The good poem arises out of necessity or discovers its necessity in the act of composition. Necessity is linked to rhythm. When a poem’s rhythm is off, usually, it’s because the poet has not yet located what is central in his/her subject. Therefore, the most fundamental act of revision is for the poet to locate the poem’s informing principle, its locus of concern.” This helps me understand the differences and similarities between writing fiction and poetry. I have a long history of finding my rhythm in poetry, but in my fiction I’ve felt lost in the bulk of words.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tammy Marie Jacintho

    These introspective meditations on both craftsmanship and personality will be read and mined for meaning far into the future. I think I can grow old with this book. I have read the first 5memoirs and essays and I think I am in love with his sensitive readings. His analysis of poetry and his analysis of his own life are proof of a man, a man, who is even now, finding his destination.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    Dunn's autobiographical and literary essays share the wit and insightfulness of his poems. He is consistently interesting to read. I'd recommend reading this relatively short work of prose along with one of his books of poetry for anyone not familiar with Dunn or not in the habit of reading poetry. Dunn's autobiographical and literary essays share the wit and insightfulness of his poems. He is consistently interesting to read. I'd recommend reading this relatively short work of prose along with one of his books of poetry for anyone not familiar with Dunn or not in the habit of reading poetry.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    Excellent collection of essays that read like a course in writing. Ranks with Pinsky and Oliver. Great balanced examples from the writers life on the challenges of creating and critically examining ones own writing.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Mcgee

    Informative book containing essays from done on the craft of writing poetry. I learned a bit about my style as a budding poet and some pitfalls to avoid along the way. Anyone looking to publish poetry at some point down the line should pick this one up and take a look.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Dunn is incredibly sensitive and perceptive and it shines through in this collection of essays and reflections on writing and reading poetry.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Gary McDowell

    One of the very first contemporary poets I really dug.

  16. 4 out of 5

    jim

    This is one of my favorite all-time books and a must-read for writers and especially poets.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cameron

    Valuable insight from an accomplished and wise poet. One of the most helpful books on the writing of poetry I've come across. Valuable insight from an accomplished and wise poet. One of the most helpful books on the writing of poetry I've come across.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Richard

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rowan Brown

  20. 5 out of 5

    Clare

  21. 5 out of 5

    Di Zhang

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brian Gunn

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dan Gilmore

  24. 5 out of 5

    Qristina Zavackova

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ami

  26. 5 out of 5

    riese

  27. 4 out of 5

    Maureen Clark

  28. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lois

  30. 4 out of 5

    Caine Wilkes

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