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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.
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.
Where the Man Lives
Here's his online hangout, anyway.
Get the deets about Dunn here, including his work and biography.
Music. Car. Poem. Dunn and Done.
Here's a YouTube tribute. Just watch.
Dunn in Person
Cheesy classical music? Dunn talking about how to write a poem? Yes, please!
Dunn Reading Dunn
Scroll down. Hit play. Kick back. Listen to Dunn.
Dunn Read on the Radio
Enjoy this nifty link to Garrison Keillor, ending a short podcast with Dunn's poem "The Sacred." It's worth the short wait.
Having a beard isn't over, it's just plain… Dunn.
Dig the shadows, the beard, and Dunn looking like he wants to get in a car, turn on the music, and drive over to your house to read you a poem.
Here's a short interview about winning the Pulitzer. Holla!
Dunn Gettin' It Done
Long questions, with short answers—that's how we like it.
More Fun with Dunn
Here's an interview with Dunn by the journal Nightwatch.
Here's a link to one of Stephen Dunn's many books, but one which includes "The Sacred."