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Named -- Stephen Dunn

Guest poem submitted by Sameer Siruguri:
(Poem #1063) Named
 He'd spent his life trying to control the names
             people gave him;
 oh the unfair and the accurate equally hurt.

 Just recently he'd been a son-of-a-bitch
            and sweetheart in the same day,
 and once again knew what antonyms

 love and control are, and how comforting
             it must be to have a business card -
 Manager, Specialist - and believe what it says.

 Who, in fact, didn't want his most useful name
            to enter with him,
 when he entered a room, who didn't want to be

 that kind of lie? A man who was a sweetheart
             and a son-of-a-bitch
 was also more or less every name

 he'd ever been called, and when you die, he thought,
             that's when it happens,
 you're collected forever into a few small words.

 But never to have been outrageous or exquisite,
             no grand mistake
 so utterly yours it causes whispers

 in the peripheries of your presence - that was
                    his fear.
 "Reckless"; he wouldn't object to such a name

 if it came from the right voice with the right
             amount of reverence.
 Someone nearby, of course, certain to add "fool."
-- Stephen Dunn
I heard about Dunn through a friend and searched the Internet for some
represenative poetry. I found two pieces, this and and though the
latter is definitely the better poem, this had some neat phrases ("whispers
in the peripheries of your presence") that I liked more. I analysed this
poem by removing the spacing and making a paragraph out of it. The abrupt
breaks that verse-form allows ("oh the unfair and the accurate...") get laid
out in starker relief that way and you wonder what value came out of calling
this poetry, except the license to insert those choppy sentences. Or was the
power of the important lines ("you've collected forever into a few small
words") only apparent because I had seen it the proper format first?

Still, Dunn's never been submitted to Minstrels and the writing is good
enough that this merits as an unfair omission. The poem's quiet anguish for
a sense of proper identity is a very fashionable question, especially in
America, which is Dunn's provenance. I itch to dismiss this sentiment as
trite but Dunn's artful arrangement of words stays my tongue.


37 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

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I think that it is one of the best poems in the world,Stephen Dunn is wonderful I have reading some of his poem, he is a great poet! thanks for sharing!!22dd

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