by Stephen Dunn
The Sacred Introduction
In A Nutshell
Do you ever think of your car as a church? Silence as sacred? Stephen Dunn does, and his poem "The Sacred" is all about hopping in the car and finding that quiet place where you can jam whatever tunes you want just so you can be alone in a sacred place. Dunn published his poem in 1989, and it's a perfect example of his work: poetry about seemingly mundane, quotidian (we're talking everyday stuff) experiences—like driving around in a car, for example.
What's cool about this poem is how Dunn uses simple words and short lines to turn a classroom discussion into a meditation on the awesomeness of a little alone time. In fact, while he's talking about driving, he also seems to be talking about writing a poem, showing us how the two are sort of the same. You'll have to read the rest to get into the details, but trust us, this poem is a great ride. Plus, you don't have to pitch in any gas money to come along.
Why Should I Care?
The genius of Stephen Dunn's poem is that it applies to everyone, even you. C'mon, you've never been in class and been asked a question you don't want to answer? Check—that's you. You've never just wanted to get in the car, blast your favorite music and be alone for a while, not talking to anyone? Check—that's you, too. What about enjoying the silence of not talking? Of not having to answer some weird question from the teacher? From getting far away and letting silence form a nice little bubble around you where you can just zone out and feel the thrill of being in motion? You, you, and you again.
And that's us too. Dunn's poetry is so great because instead of writing about really big ideas with complicated words and stuffy traditional poetry forms, he invents his own form, and uses day-to-day experiences that we can all relate to. What's awesome is that he uses poetry to elevate these otherwise boring experiences to show us how much beauty and power there is in the smallest moments of our lives, like driving a car.