Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Christopher MiddletonNotes on a Viking Prow
(PN Review 10)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Lehbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Reader Survey
PN Review Substack

This review is taken from PN Review 167, Volume 32 Number 3, January - February 2006.

THE HISSING OF SUMMER LAWNS STEPHEN DUNN, Local Visitations (W.W. Norton) $12.95

As has been noted repeatedly by its critics, poetry in America tends to be a middle-class, academic occupation. The growth of the American middle class following the Second World War, fuelled both by national prosperity as well as the near universal access to a college degree, resulted in a huge geographical shift out of the cities - haunts of Whitman and Crane - to the open plains between the cities, empty spaces where there truly was 'no there there'. Housing was homogenised as was, generally speaking, the culture itself. Suburbia exists, somewhat shamefacedly, in a liminal space between a past of adventurous modernism and a future so unknown that it can only be labelled according to what came before it: post-modernist. Middle-class suburbia is an easy target, especially for poetry critics who rail against its stifling impact on originality, a stifling compounded by the sterility of an academic bureaucracy that stamps out cookie cutter poets who have been taught by technically competent but emotionally unengaged professors. This criticism of poetry mimics the larger cultural critique, found in films like American Beauty or novels like Richard Ford's Independence Day, of the suburbs as physically and emotionally deadening.

Yet art, as the poetry of Stephen Dunn demonstrates, can be made there. Dunn is the poet laureate of suburbia - southern New Jersey, as it happens - and that, I would argue with no hint of irony or sarcasm, is high praise indeed. That ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image