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What Goes On: Selected and New Poems, 1995-2009
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What Goes On: Selected and New Poems, 1995-2009

4.43 of 5 stars 4.43  ·  rating details  ·  147 ratings  ·  22 reviews
"Good poems are triumphs over the unlikely," Stephen Dunn says. "They make us pay attention in new ways." In his second new and selected collection, Dunn subtly enlarges our sense of possibility. His new poems, suffused with affection and rue for our world, occasionally address the metaphysical, as in these lines—

from “Talk to God”

Ease into your misgivings

Ask him if in his
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published January 5th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company
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The Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanShakespeare's Sonnets by William ShakespeareThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. EliotAriel by Sylvia Plath
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I love it when a poet can tell a story. He had me from the first poem, "Tucson," from the opening lines:
A man was dancing with the wrong woman
in the wrong bar, the wrong part of town.

to the middle lines:
I'd forgotten
how fragile the face is, how fists too
are just so many small bones.

to the close:
My friend said nothing's wrong, stay put,
it's a good fighting bar, you won't get hurt
unless you need to get hurt.

Another poem has a dead-on analysis is the Olympic skaters Tonya and Nancy:
One woman has no
Beverly J.
I got to page 132 of 195 but I just couldn't play along anymore. "....a succubus bitten moon followed me home last night...." no, I don't think so. Goodbye
Steven Hendrix
This was my first time reading Dunn after hearing several friends praise him. I now understand why. He is instantly one of my favorites. Incredible depth of thought in describing the mundane. Plain language that moves and at times shocks with the simplistic beauty.
Patrick Mcgee
Stephen Dunn is quite the poet. I enjoyed his more narrative style, which is right up my alley and writing style when tackling poetry. I enjoyed reading this collection that spanned nearly fifteen years of his work. He is not the kind of poet to play around too much with the form or structure of his poems, but you can see an unmistakable growth in his poetry even later in his career. The one exception concerning the structure is with one particular book of poems, Riffs and Reciprocities, where a ...more
This book came my way, and I read it, realizing I had not read a complete book of Dunn's poems, though I'd enjoyed individual poems in journals and anthologies over the years. This, as a "selected and new," was a great way to watch the arc of his life and art and get a sense of his obsessions and changes over time.

While I generally prefer lyric poems, and there are plenty of those here, it was fun to take the little trip in prose poems in Riffs & Reciprocities, showing that poems can be mini
John Dalton
This book of selected poems means more to me than any other. I've read and reread every poem in this book numerous times and they keep revealing their wisdom. For the record I'm not a poet (though I do write fiction). I come to poetry not for insular words games or for the stringing together of vague but evocative phrases. That's relatively easy to do. What's hard is to craft a poem of genuine and original insight and to do it with real clarity. More than any other contemporary poet, Stephen Dun ...more
I asked for this collection of poems for Christmas after I read "The Imagined" in The New Yorker a while back. A recurring theme is definitely passive dissatisfaction with one's life, but Dunn manages not to be depressing. He's great at describing that feeling of having your mind somewhere else other than where you are. It made me wonder why I don't spend more time reading poetry.
Ann Woodlief
Jun 20, 2009 Ann Woodlief rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who love poetry
There are poems here that really stick in my mind. Not too experimental, and there are backbones of stories and relationships in many. Perhaps it helps that he is my age, and the references to what's going on in the world are clear enough, as well as the hard won lessons of life and love.
Joan Colby
This collection from Dunn's latest five books plus some newer poems contains many wise and persuasive works by the Pulitzer Prize winning author. Dunn is never gaudy or image driven, much of his work is reflective, but always astutely observant.
Karen Douglass
Hmmm, I just commented on this book and don't see it. So, again, I like his poetry. It is understandable without being shallow or egotistical. He knows his craft and uses it to good effect. Many times I underlined a fresh turn of phrase or image.
"And I, in my chosen, happy torment of words, spend days cutting, stitching, rearranging, trying to do what it takes to be properly heard. Other days I speak about books I love. I feel like an escapee, one big step ahead of my past."
Dunn is eloquent and elegant, without ever overdoing it. Though I'd read a number of the poems in previously published books it was nice to see them fit together with new pieces.
Stephen Dunn may be my favorite poet and this so one of his nicest collections. Not as indispensable as his "new and selected" but slimmer and equally as awe filled.
This was one of the 2010 RUSA Notable Books winners. For the complete list, go to
Cindy Cunningham

As many followers know, Dunn is aging and is not in the best of health, but his work continues to astound and amaze.
humble and sweet, personal and some great imagery.

but i just keep coming back to so much humility about life and himself despite being a wordmaster.
Stephen Dunn can write about average, commonplace things in new ways, in sensuous ways, in emotional ways, like no other poet I've read.
Just about every poem I read by Stephen Dunn stalks my thoughts for a little while - most recently its "Sleeping with Others."
Dunn is always good stuff. Beautiful to read, hear and thought-provoking.
Michelle Young
He also wrote a poem about Jack and Jill after their fall. Darn.
This is what modern American poetry is supposed to be.
Paige marked it as to-read
May 08, 2015
Alannah Zeebeck
Alannah Zeebeck marked it as to-read
Apr 07, 2015
Terry Everett
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Mar 31, 2015
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Mar 25, 2015
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Stephen Dunn was born in New York City in 1939. He earned a B.A. in history and English from Hofstra University, attended the New School Writing Workshops, and finished his M.A. in creative writing at Syracuse University. Dunn has worked as a professional basketball player, an advertising copywriter, and an editor, as well as a professor of creative writing.

Dunn's books of poetry include Everythin
More about Stephen Dunn...
Different Hours New and Selected Poems, 1974-1994 Between Angels The Insistence of Beauty Loosestrife

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