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Stephen Dobyns quotes Showing 1-30 of 36

“Each thing I do, I rush through so I can do something else. In such a way do the days pass---a blend of stock car racing and the never ending building of a gothic cathedral. Through the windows of my speeding car I see all that I love falling away: books unread, jokes untold, landscapes unvisited...”
Stephen Dobyns
“These people you used to see every day, friends or acquaintances, after a while they become as distant as any stranger, people you suddenly recall late at night--you remember something they said or something silly that someone once did. For a few moments they completely occupy your mind; then you forget them again.”
Stephen Dobyns, Eating Naked
“Let's say someone has experienced a violent trauma or betrayal: a child has been raped by a parent or has witnessed the destruction of someone he loves or has been so traumatized by the possibility of beatings and punishments that he's afraid to act. If the trauma is great enough, that person's life may become frozen, emotionally frozen even though he still gets up in the morning, is busy all day, and goes to bed at night. But there's this empty space that begins to fill with rage, rage toward everyone - the perpetrator, the people in the world who haven't suffered, even toward himself. (174)”
Stephen Dobyns, Boy in the Water
“It was as if pain were a room he had entered and the door had been locked behind him.”
Stephen Dobyns, Eating Naked
tags: pain
“The obsession was gone. We liked each other, even loved each other. And our sex was still good, but the hunger was gone. Either it just wore out or we wore each other out. A passion like that pushes everything else out of its path. You can't be married and have jobs and children and work and write and have something like an emotional bubonic plague.”
Stephen Dobyns, Eating Naked
“Most women are more into real estate than sex. They want to own you.”
Stephen Dobyns, Eating Naked
tags: sex, women
“There are many reasons for violence. This is just something that sometimes happens. We'd see it in treatment centers - the child who'd suffered something awful. Even in the best recovery there'd be a fear that everything would fall apart and they'd become victims again. And their final loyalty was to themselves. They couldn't be forced. They preferred to wreck everything, preferred self-destruction to surrender. (175)”
Stephen Dobyns, Boy in the Water
“Actions have consequences. Ignorance about the nature of those actions does not free a person from responsibility for the consequences. (28)”
Stephen Dobyns, The Church of Dead Girls
“My wife's dying upstairs and I can't do anything about it. I look in her face and I see the memories there. I see how I hurt her and how I said the wrong things and how I got angry and how I wasn't the man she hoped I'd be. I see that in her face and I see she's going to die with that. You think I'm not preoccupied?”
Stephen Dobyns, Eating Naked
“Adolescence is a dreadful period. We tend to notice those youngsters who misbehave and call attention to themselves, but there are others, equally miserable, who receive no help simply because they are silent. (41)”
Stephen Dobyns, The Church of Dead Girls
“They are asleep. This is the condition they prefer. They are afraid of the world and sleep is a way of dealing with their fear. Someday they will wake. Perhaps something frightful will happen. Indeed, there is no better invitation to the frightful than ignorance - that is, sleep. (29)”
Stephen Dobyns, The Church of Dead Girls
“It's peculiar to eat naked, but not crazy. What's crazy is to shoot yourself. You've got to get these things in perspective.”
Stephen Dobyns, Eating Naked
“He thinks of that ocean house and wishes he were back in his former life or that one could take one moment and remain inside it like an egg inside its shell, instead of constantly being hurried into the future by good luck or bad.”
Stephen Dobyns, Velocities: New and Selected Poems, 1966-1992
“One writes a poem when one is so taken up by an emotional concept that one is unable to remain silent.”
Stephen Dobyns, Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry
tags: poetry
“Hesitancy is the surest destroyer of talent. One cannot be timorous and reticent, one must be original and loud. New metaphors, new rhythms, new expressions of emotion can only spring from unhindered gall. Nothing should interfere with that intuition--not the fear of appearing stupid, nor of offending somebody, nor jeopardizing publication, nor being trivial. The intuition must be as unhindered as a karate chop.”
Stephen Dobyns, Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry
tags: poetry
“For the past thirty years or so, much American poetry has been marked by an earnestness that rejects the comic. This has nothing to do with seriousness. The comic can be very serious. The trouble with the earnest is that it seeks to be commended. It seeks to be praised for its intention more than for what it is saying.”
Stephen Dobyns, Next Word, Better Word: The Craft of Writing Poetry
tags: poetry
“You should welcome your ignorance because it enables you to learn. (31)”
Stephen Dobyns, The Church of Dead Girls
“Why are doors more difficult to open
as if some sadness were leaning against them?
Why do windows darken and trees bend
when there is no wind? You call that occasional
roar the roar of a plane and I imagine
a time when I might have believed that. But now the darkness has been going on
for too long, and I have accustomed myself
to the pleasure of thinking that soon
there will be no reason to hold on in this place
where rocks are like water and it’s so difficult
to find something solid to hold on to.”
Stephen Dobyns, Velocities: New and Selected Poems, 1966-1992
“If he could not find beauty, nothing else would be worth finding.”
Stephen Dobyns
“A work of art gives testimony to what it is to be a human being. It bears witness, it extracts meaning. A work of art is also the clearest nonphysical way that emotions is communicated from one human being to another. The emotion isn't referred to; it is re-created. The emotion shows us that our most private feelings are in fact shared feelings. And this offer us some relief from our existential isolation.
(p: 10)”
Stephen Dobyns, Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry
“If it weren't for the Chicagos and Detroits and Toledos, the terrible things would spread out across the whole country and make trouble for everybody else. Such places were collectors of badness in the way hospitals were collectors of the sick and damaged.”
Stephen Dobyns, Eating Naked
“It was not that she felt any allegiance to the truth. God knows she had cheated on too many men for the truth to be more than a stumbling block. But sometimes falsehood took more strength than she could summon up.”
Stephen Dobyns, Eating Naked
“It’s odd with people who are shy: they never quite learn how to speak, to feel at home with words in their mouths.”
Stephen Dobyns, The Church of Dead Girls
“When he began to talk about Wyndham, it was almost with relief, as if his purpose in life was to tell that story over and over. To tell it until its last shard had been pulled from him. As he listened to himself, he realized that the story sounded practiced as it changed from event and recollection into language, as if each retelling were an attempt to scrub away the awfulness.”
Stephen Dobyns, Boy in the Water
“Theseus Within the Labyrinth pt.1

The lives of Greeks in the old days were deep,
mysterious and often lead to questions like
just what was wrong with Ariadne anyway, that’s
what I’d like to know? She would have done
anything for that rascally Theseus, and what
did he do but sneak out in the night and row
back to his ship with black sails. Let’s get
the heck out of here, he muttered to his crew
and they leaned on their oars as he went whack-
whack on the whacking board—a human metronome
of adventure and ill-fortune. She was King Minos’s
daughter and had helped Theseus kill the king’s
pet monster, her half-brother, so possibly
he didn’t like feeling beholden—people might
think he wasn’t tough. But certainly he’d spent
his life knocking chips off shoulders and flattening
any fellow reckless enough to step across a line
drawn in the dust. If you wanted a punch thrown,
Theseus was just the cowboy to throw it. I’m only
happy when hitting and scratching, he’d told Ariadne
that first night. So he’d been the logical choice
to sail down from Athens to Crete to stop this
nonsense of a tribute of virgins for some
monster to eat. Those Cretans called it eating but
Theseus thought himself no fool and liked a virgin
as well as the next man. Not that he could have got
into the Labyrinth without Ariadne’s help or out
either for that matter. As for the Minotaur, lounging
on his couch, nibbling grapes and sipping wine, while
a troop of ex-virgins fluttered to his beck and call,
Theseus must have scared the horns right off him,
slamming back the door and standing there in his lion
skin suit and waving that ugly club. The poor beast
might have had a stroke had there been time before
Theseus pummelled him into the earth. Then, with
Ariadne’s help, Theseus escaped, and soon after he
ditched her on an island and sailed off in his ship
with black sails, which returns us to the question:
Just what was wrong with Ariadne anyway?”
Stephen Dobyns, Velocities: New and Selected Poems, 1966-1992
“Theseus Within the Labyrinth pt.2

But nobody like Theseus likes a smart girl, always
telling him to dress warmly and eat plenty of fiber.
She was one of those people who are never in doubt.
Had he sharpened his sword, tied his sandals?
Without her, of course, he would have never escaped
the labyrinth. Why hadn’t he thought of that trick
with the ball of yarn? But as he looked down
at her sleeping form, this woman who was already
carrying his child, maybe he thought of their
future together, how she would correctly foretell
the mystery or banality behind each locked door.
So probably he shook his head and said, Give me
a dumb girl any day, and crept back to his ship
and sailed away. Of course Ariadne was revenged.
She would have told him to change the sails,
to take down the black ones, put up the white.
She would have reminded him that his father,
the king of Athens, was waiting on a high cliff
scanning the Aegean for Theseus’s returning ship,
white for victory, black for defeat. She would
have said how his father would see the black sails,
how the grief for the supposed death of his one son
would destroy him. But Theseus and his men had
brought out the wine and were cruising a calm sea
in a small boat filled to the brim with ex-virgins.
Who could have blamed him? Until he heard the distant
scream and his head shot up to see the black sails
and he knew. The girls disappeared, the ship grew
quiet except for the lap-lap of the water. Staring
toward the spot where his father had tumbled
headfirst into the Aegean, Theseus understood
he would always be a stupid man with a thick stick,
scratching his forehead long after the big event.
But think, does he change his mind, turn back
the ship, hunt up Ariadne and beg her pardon?
Far better to be stupid by himself than smart
because she’d been tugging on his arm; better
to live in the eternal present with a boatload
of ex-virgins than in that dark land of consequences
promised by Ariadne, better to live like any one of us,
thinking to outwit the darkness, but knowing
it will catch us, that we will be surprised like
the Minotaur on his couch when the door slams back
and the hired gun of our personal destruction bursts
upon us, upsetting the good times and scaring the girls.
Better to be ignorant, to go into the future as into
a long tunnel, without ball of yarn or clear direction,
to tiptoe forward like any fool or saint or hero,
jumpy, full of second thoughts, and bravely unprepared.”
Stephen Dobyns, Velocities: New and Selected Poems, 1966-1992
“In high school, American history had been a happy story; now Chihani told them the sad one.”
Stephen Dobyns, The Church of Dead Girls
“Each thing I do I rush through so I can do something else..
in such a way do the days pass.. I see all that I love falling away..
books unread, jokes untold, landscapes unvisited..”
Stephen Dobyns, Cemetery Nights
“Isn't that why you want to shoot yourself? To make a protest against change?”
Stephen Dobyns, Eating Naked
“Rossi was killed on a motorcycle this morning on Bank Street. He was cut in half. I need to notify his next of kin, and you’re going to help me find them.” “Cut in half?” says a man standing by the door of a small office. The studied blankness of the men’s faces changes to shock and focused attention, which again gives them a resemblance. “Maybe he was broken into a hundred pieces, but the top half and the bottom half were the biggest chunks,” says Manny. “And we can’t find his head.” The men wince. This evidence of human feeling warms the detectives.”
Stephen Dobyns, Is Fat Bob Dead Yet?: A Novel

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