Stephen Dunn is a very well-known poet, given he's won the Pulitzer Prize and all. Nevertheless, being moderately contemporary poetry illiterate, I only recently started reading him. To be truthful, I've been low-level obsessing over him for a little while, ever since reading a poem of his called "Tucson," in the Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century American Poetry, which I dip into now and again when I'm craving a poetry fix.
I finally tracked down and bought two of Dunn's books today, one a career-spanning collection titled "What Goes On," and one a more recent volume, "Here And Now." I bought the latter solely on the strength of flipping it open randomly to this poem, "If A Clown," which I immediately loved.
Later, I Googled the poem and it turns out it ran in The New Yorker in 2009, which, as my wife said, is a little like discovering some awesome new band, then finding out they played on SNL four years ago. But even so! Maybe everyone's already read this poem and fallen as hard in love with it as I have. But if you haven't, here are the opening lines:
If a clown came out of the woods,
a standard-looking clown with oversized
polka-dot clothes, floppy shoes,
a red, bulbous nose, and you saw him
on the edge of your property,
there’d be nothing funny about that,
would there? A bear might be preferable,
especially if black and berry-driven.
And it goes from there and is like a crazed beautiful hybrid of Robert Frost and Jack Handey and is absolutely fantastic. Suffice to say, my obsessing has been officially upgraded from low-level to high-level. Read the whole poem here. Read Tucson here. Go buy all of Stephen Dunn's books. Also, I was going to try and illustrate this post with a photo of a clown but I seriously couldn't find a single one that wouldn't give you, and me, nightmares.