Riffs and Reciprocities: Prose Poems


"This Astaire-like glide through our not-so-idle talk is a pleasure."?Publishers Weekly

Stephen Dunn experiments with short, related pieces that play off each other in the manner of jazz improvisations. The resulting pairs cover such subjects as "Scruples/Saints," "Hypocrisy/Precision," and "Anger/Generosity." The wisdom and startling turns we've come to expect from Dunn are everywhere in the ninety miniatures (forty-five pairs) that comprise ...

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Riffs and Reciprocities: Prose Pairs

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"This Astaire-like glide through our not-so-idle talk is a pleasure."—Publishers Weekly

Stephen Dunn experiments with short, related pieces that play off each other in the manner of jazz improvisations. The resulting pairs cover such subjects as "Scruples/Saints," "Hypocrisy/Precision," and "Anger/Generosity." The wisdom and startling turns we've come to expect from Dunn are everywhere in the ninety miniatures (forty-five pairs) that comprise this volume.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Known for his observant, carefully crafted works, Dunn takes a turn here both in style and content; writing prose poems, he's become more personal, more introspective. He works in pairs, matching "Hypocrisy" with "Precision," "Passion" with "Paradox," and "Anger" with "Generosity" to explore the boundaries of our existence. What results is "the most engaging and provocative work he's written in some time" (LJ 5/15/98).
Library Journal
After publishing ten well-received poetry collections over the last 25 years, the author of Loosestrife (LJ 7/96) now ventures into the slightly flatter but no less fertile territory of the prose poem. This new approach serves him well because it has inspired the most engaging and provocative work he's written in some time. Regarded as the poet laureate of suburban America, Dunn now moves further inward in a series of pairedsometimes directly, sometimes tangentially relatedmeditative pieces that probe the boundary between the ideal and the lived. "Passion" spawns "Paradox," "Indifference" follows from "Anonymity," and in nearly every instance Dunn strikes the "sweet balance between style and disclosure" that characterizes his best poems. "Irony manages the moment," he writes, and like an expert ironist he notes our inconsistencies and our hypocrisies, but most of all he recognizes our honest desire to "locate some bedrock of dignity," fraught with error as that search may be. Inventive, probing, and often funny, Dunn's metaphysical improvisations offer personalized, operational definitions of the concepts that circumscribe our lives. Recommended for most collections.Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393319576
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 114
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.27 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Dunn is the author of seventeen poetry collections, including What Goes On: New and Selected Poems 1995–2009 and, most recently, Here and Now. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his collection Different Hours. He has also been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and has received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Richard Stockton College, he lives in Frostburg, Maryland, with his wife, the writer Barbara Hurd.
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Table of Contents

Technology/Memory 18
Scruples/Saints 20
Evil/Advocacy 22
Intoxication/Habit 24
Bourgeois/Religion 26
Passion/Paradox 28
Money/Indulgence 30
Democracy/Rights 32
Obstinacy/Principles 34
Vulgar/Sublime 36
Syntax/Mimesis 38
Outlaw/Citizen 40
Strangers/Acquaintances 42
Suicides/Funerals 44
Anger/Generosity 46
Sky/Weather 50
Bedroom/Kitchen 52
Landscapes/Interiors 54
Fog/Luminescence 56
Natives/Lovers 58
Music/Noise 60
Flirtation/Revision 62
Faces/Bodies 64
Clothing: Men/Clothing: Women 66
Midnight/Noon 68
Legacy/Silence 70
Information/Personal 72
Frivolity/Seriousness 74
Reading/Erasure 76
Reflection/Shadow 80
Experts/Ignorance 82
Emblems/Heroes 84
Scapegoat/Criminal 86
Hegemony/Honor 88
Mercy/Vengeance 90
Superstition/Certainty 92
Irony/Earnestness 94
Ambition/Humility 96
Hypocrisy/Precision 98
Cynicism/Ego 100
Advantages/Superiority 102
Anonymity/Indifference 104
Despair/Illness 106
Insurance/Luck 108
Defeats/Acceptance 110
Notes 112
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