Get Your Premium Membership

Stephen Dunn Biography | Poet

Photo of Stephen Dunn

Stephen Dunn is one of the most important poets who is currently living. He was born in 1939 on June 24 in Forest Hills in New York City, making him a Queens native. He is still active today. Stephen Dunn has been a prolific poet and academic, so it is difficult to sum up all of his professional achievements. He is one of the few people in the world who has had the distinction of winning the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, which is arguably the most coveted prize in the field, and that is in addition to winning the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Dunn's Educative Journey

Stephen Dunn was a person born just before what people today would recognize as the modern world, and many parts of his biography demonstrate that. He was the first person in his family to attend college. Going to college is a rite of passage for many people in this culture today, but it was far less common in the early twentieth century, and even less common before that point. Defying stereotypes about athletes, Stephen Dunn made it to Hofstra University on a basketball scholarship. He later went to Syracuse University and earned a Master's degree in creative writing. His first degree helped make him an adman. His second degree was what helped turn him into the famous poet that he is today.

Stephen Dunn's Professional and Personal Journey

Poets and admen are often regarded as people on the opposite ends of a spectrum, even though the skills necessary for both fields actually tend to overlap. When Stephen Dunn was just out of college, he was writing advertising brochures. He was good enough at it that it's easy to imagine a future in which Stephen Dunn was never remembered as a famous poet at all, but just stayed an anonymous adman forever. Quitting the job and going to Spain in order to write made all the difference for Stephen Dunn very quickly. He was able to get the inspiration that he needed in order to continue on his path to poetic fame.

Professional Accomplishments

Many modern poets are also essentially poetry academics. However, Stephen Dunn has a bigger resume than many of them in terms of the number of schools in which he has taught. He has been a teacher at the University of Washington, Columbia University, the University of Michigan, Stockton University, Wichita State University, and Princeton University. Teaching at so many prestigious schools would be an honor enough for many academics, but Stephen Dunn is distinguished as a poet as well.

He has won no less than three National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing fellowships, as well as other fellowships. Stephen Dunn was awarded the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His 2001 poetry collection Different Hours is his most critically acclaimed work, since it managed to win him the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Getting any one of these distinctions in a lifetime would be impressive, and he managed to earn them all.

Stephen Dunn's Style and Significance

The middle class was largely an invention of the nineteenth century. Many twentieth century artists became preoccupied with exploring all of the different facets of the American middle class in a world where it became something of a dominant cultural paradigm. The Great Compression of the middle twentieth century brought the American middle class lifestyle to many more people. However, lots of individuals were ambivalent about it, and the poetry of Stephen Dunn reflects those sentiments very nicely.

Some poets spend their entire lives exploring the exact same themes. Stephen Dunn is a poet whose themes have grown up with him. He discussed themes like home invasion and divorce in the poetry that he wrote in midlife. More recently, a lot of his poetry touches on mortality and aging. Plenty of Stephen Dunn's poetry has reflected his current life stage, which allows his poetry to be accessible to a comparatively wide range of people. Stephen Dunn is not a poet perpetually pining after a lost childhood or a lost lover, which makes him seem more well-adjusted than many of his peers. 

Stephen Dunn: Poems | Best Poems | Short Poems | Quotes