Lines Of Defense
By Stephen Dunn
Norton & Company – £9.99
As is so often the case with a lot of modern day poetry, there is more often than not a few, if not a short burst of one great liners; rather than one elongated great piece of work in the vain of say W.H. Auden or T.S. Eliot.
Quite why this is so, is nigh impossible to tell. Let alone communicate. That said, it certainly isn’t wrong and it certainly doesn’t demean any of today’s actual poetry itself. But it does perhaps suggest that the current poetic bar at least, is, to varying degrees, reams lower than it once was.
However, Stephen Dunn, author of seventeen poetry collections and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for his collection Different Hours, is an astute observer of the modern world, for whom such urbanity as captured throughout Lines Of Defense, perfectly reflects the home-grown, wit and grit of so much of today’s oft cold, lacerated society:
What’s one to do who has no money
and a hatred of other people’s rules?
A leather jacket helped for some,
and for others a neckline that promised
a descent into a dreamland,
For me, the above, fourth poem in this collection of forty-three, stands-out. Whether this is so, purely because it casts something of a cinemagraphic net (through which it’s all too easy to ascertain the ruinous spoils of another), or because ‘Tracks’ wonderfully captures the worldly expendability of myopic, bovine neurosis – is thankfully hard to tell.
Thankfully, because it is the poem itself that works, rather than the subject matter that the poem so eloquently depicts:
Let’s steal a Lexus, one of the boys said.
Let’s take it for a wild ride, and Yes,
let’s paint it piss-yellow, said the girl alive
with anger. Let’s break a few windows, too.
And the man with the credentials,
as if suddenly remembering the viscera
of his part, got quiet, realized nothing
he would say could complete with how good
self-destruction sometimes feels.
There’s a philosophical simplicity throughout much of Dunn’s work, which, once embraced without question, without prejudice or expectation, truly works wonders. And I for one, am wholeheartedly looking forward to his next collection.