“The Year Before the Election”

From Stephen Dunn's New Collection Pagan Virtues

November 25, 2019  By Stephen Dunn

It was a time when all the poets
seemed to be dying, my favorites
and a few I couldn’t bear.
I folded back everything I knew
into everything I thought I knew
until I was a man living in a world
of his own crazy postponements.
The weather there was calm,
then tempestuous, then calm again,
an inner weather I felt at the mercy of.
A good friend dropped out of my life
without explanation, wouldn’t answer
my letters or phone calls. A woman
wrote to me saying she was sorry;
I had no idea who she was.
Only a few of the now-dead poets
committed suicide, or drank themselves
into oblivion. Their deaths were blamed
on natural causes. What could be stranger?
A prolonged silence began. In the past
that might have meant an important conversation
was about to occur. It had, I was told,
but hardly any of us were ready to hear it.

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Reprinted from Pagan Virtues. Copyright (c) 2020 by Stephen Dunn. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Stephen Dunn
Stephen Dunn
Stephen Dunn (1939–2021) was the author of twenty poetry collections, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Different Hours. He was a distinguished professor emeritus at Richard Stockton University. Over his six-decade career, he received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement, among many other honors.

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