WINTER PARK, Fla. - Poet Stephen Dunn was the guest of honor for Thursday afternoon's Visions and Voices presentation.
Room 226 on the Winter Park campus was packed with enough students that the maintenance crew took down the air wall that usually separates the room into sections. This second room filled up just as quickly as the first.
Dunn's poems touch upon such topics as the philosophy of the urban teenager, clowns taken out of context, and the science behind dead words. The lines of his poetry ring with stories of day to day events and the different ways that average things can be seen.
Between readings, he told the crowd a little about himself. Dunn said he earned his first degree from Hofstra University, using a basketball scholarship and that he was a very quiet student.
He didn't realize that he was different from the other players on his team until they went to see the movie The Misfits (starring Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe.) When his friends asked him to explain the movie, afterward, he discovered that he understood more about story and literature than the average jock.
Before the event, Valencia student, Andrea Ribeiro, said "My professor said great things about him," and that she "used to listen to a lot of poetry in Brazil, but this will be my first time listening to an American poet."
Matt Gregor, who is currently enrolled in Dr. Kusnetz's creative writing class, said "I liked the ones that were sort of about everyday things."
After reading such poems as "Odysseus' Secret," "What Goes On," and "Burying the Cat," Dunn listened and advised a private group of students on their latest poems. Professor Dr. Ilyse Kusnetz organized a small session of, no more than, 12 students to gather around and talk to Stephen Dunn about his tips and suggestions for writing poetry.
One tip he gave was to cross out everything that doesn't advance the poem during revision, such as repetitive words and unnecessary metaphors. "You may need to startle yourself into saying that which you didn't know you were going to say," he said.
Stephen Dunn is now a professor of creative writing at the Richard Stockton College in New Jersey. He has also been a visiting professor at the University of Washington, University of Columbia, New York University, and the University of Michigan. He has written 16 books, including Pulitzer Prize winner Different Hours.