Different hours : poems

by Stephen Dunn

Paper Book, 2002





New York : W.W. Norton, c2002.


A wise and graceful new collection by one of our "major, indispensable poets" (Sidney Lea). The mysteries of Eros and Thanatos, the stubborn endurance of mind and body in the face of diminishment--these are the undercurrents of Stephen Dunn's eleventh volume. "I am interested in exploring the 'different' hours," he says, "not only of one's life, but also of the larger historical and philosophical life beyond the personal."

User reviews

LibraryThing member alana_leigh
Stephen Dunn, I love you. Different Hours might be, I suppose, Dunn's most famous volume of poetry, as it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000. It's a bit darker and a bit more somber than I expected, clearly written by a man who is aware of his aging self. He primarily looks back on his own life, at the
Show More
things he did and did not do, and yet he also looks beyond his own existence to the world and its issues. One of the blurbs in the front of this book calls his word "simultaneously haunting and reassuring," which I find to be a very apt description of Dunn and this volume in particular. It's lovely, wry, heartbreaking, and buoyant. It makes me pleased to know that Dunn received the Pulitzer, not necessarily for this work, but just in general so that he could be recognized for being such a strong and necessary voice for the contemporary world.

Below are a few of my favorites from Different Hours,

"Dog Weather"

Earlier, everyone was in knee boots, collars up.
The paper boy's papers came apart
in the wind.

Now, nothing human moving.
Just a black squirrel fidgeting like Bogart
in The Caine Mutiny.

My breath chalks the window,
gives me away to myself.

I like the intelligibility of old songs.
I prefer yesterday.

Cars pass, the asphalt's on its back
smudged with skid. It's potholed
and cracked; it's no damn good.

Anyone out without the excuse of a dog
should be handcuffed
and searched for loneliness.

My hair is thinning.
I feel like tossing the wind a stick.

The promised snow has arrived,
heavy, wet,
I remember the blizzard of...
People I don't want to be
speak like that.

I close my eyes and one
of my many unborn sons
makes a snowball
and lofts it at an unborn friend.

They've sent me an AARP card.
I'm on their list.

I can be discounted now almost anywhere.

"The Reverse Side"

The reverse side also has a reverse side.
-- A Japanese Proverb

It's why when we speak a truth
some of us instantly feel foolish
as if a deck inside us has been shuffled
and there it is --the opposite of what we said.

And perhaps why as we fall in love
we're already falling out of it.

It's why the terrified and the simple
latch onto one story,
just one version of the great mystery.

Image & afterimage, oh even
the open-minded yearn for a fiction
to rein things in--
the snapshot, the lie of a frame.

How do we not go crazy,
we who have found ourselves compelled
to live within the circle, the ellipsis, the word
not yet written.

"A Postmortem Guide"

For my eulogist, in advance

Do not praise me for my exceptional serenity.
Can't you see I've turned away
from the large excitements,
and have accepted all the troubles?

Go down to the old cemetery; you'll see
there's nothing definitive to be said.
The dead once were all kinds--
boundary breakers and scalawags,
martyrs of the flesh, and so many
dumb bunnies of duty, unbearably nice.

I've been a little of each.

And, please, resist the temptation
of speaking about virtue.
The seldom-tempted are too fond
of that word, the small-
spirited, the unburdened.
Know that I've admired in others
only the fraught straining
to be good.

Adam's my man and Eve's not to blame.
He bit in; it made no sense to stop.

Still, for accuracy's sake you might say
I often stopped,
that I rarely went as far as I dreamed.

And since you know my hardships,
understand they're mere bump and setback
against history's horror.
Remind those seated, perhaps weeping,
how obscene it is
for some of us to complain.

Tell them I had second chances.
I knew joy.
I was burned by books early
and kept sidling up to the flame.

Tell them that at the end I had no need
for God, who'd become just a story
I once loved, one of many
with concealments and late-night rescues,
high sentence and pomp. The truth is

I learned to live without hope
as well as I could, almost happily,
in the despoiled and radiant now.

You who are one of them, say that I loved
my companions most of all.
In all sincerity, say that they provided
a better way to be alone.
Show Less
LibraryThing member accidentally
my favorite collection from my favorite contemporary poet. i could begin to list my favorites but it would become boring...the title poem is amazing, as is 'rubbing'.
LibraryThing member snash
Stephen Dunn's poems find the eternal in the mundane, the loneliness in company. They're written in an accessible manner. A joy to read.


Page: 0.3687 seconds