Personal Life and Creative Life Overlap

About the Exhibits:

Our exhibits aim to provide readers with an overall outline of Stephen Dunn's life as a poet, an athlete, a husband, and a teacher. His personal belongings, correspondences, manuscripts, and pictures have given us invaluable insight into his life. His personal and poetry archives have given us access to his innermost thoughts, his revision process, and his moving words.

Most readers don't have the luxury of closely examining a poet's personal items, but given our access to Hofstra's Special Collections Library, we were able to explore certain aspects of Stephen Dunn's life and how they (possibly) influenced his poetry. Like any responsible readers, we do not assume authorial intent or over-psychologize his work, but our exploration of Dunn's personal life may suggest a connection to his poetry, and therefore enhanced our understanding and experience reading it.


Stephen Dunn was born in Forest Hills, Queens New York, in 1939 and was the first of his family to attend college. In 1962, on a basketball scholarship, Dunn earned his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Hofstra University, where he also played college basketball. Straight out of college, Dunn’s first job was writing in-house brochures for Nabisco in New York. However, that fate was short lived, as he felt he had a different life calling. Opting to quit his ad job, he packed up and moved to Spain to write, beginning with a novel, but focusing on poetry, which seemed more promising. Eventually, Dunn went back to school, attending the New Academic School from 1964-1966 and finally earning his Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Syracuse University in 1970. Proving to be a promising life choice indeed, Dunn went on to write over a dozen books, most famously Different Hours, which won him the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. 


Dunn has received awards most notably for his 2001 Pulitzer Prize in poetry, the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, Fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, three NEA Creative Writing Fellowships, a Distinguished Artist Fellowship from NJ State Council on the Art, the Levinson and Oscar Blumenthal Prizes from Poetry, and the Theodore Roethke Prize from Poetry Northwest, amongst others.