Browse Exhibits (7 total)

Dunn and Fan Mail


One of the most fascinating and intimate parts of working with the Dunn archives was the access to his fan mail.  The 3 large boxes full of letters, emails, and postcards displayed a wide range of emotion and demographic-- fans from young and old, male and female, detailing admirations, adoration, personal secrets, sad stories, happy stories, some potential scandal and more. We read fan mail dating from 1971-2014. His fans' devotion does not waver. Dunn's fan mail is a testament to how powerful his poetry is and how art reaches many different types of people. It is apparent that Dunn is a well-loved poet that is open to communicating with the people that read his work. 

Moreover, Dunn throughout the years has been a visiting professor at a number of schools—University of Washington, Columbia University, University of Michigan, NYU—and he has taught at Stockton University since 1974. He has also done workshops at a number of different places throughout the country, which in addition to the places he has taught, has allowed for a number of fan mail letters from different places and ranging from as early as 1971 to present day. For the purpose of this part of the exhibit, we will create a timeline, tracing Dunn’s fan mail over the years, beginning with 1971.  

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.

Stephen Dunn & Sports


Before Dunn was a poet, he played basketball. He attended Hofstra University on a basketball scholarship. His life as an athlete has influenced his poetry, as seen in the poem "Losing Steps." 

How are poetry and sports related? Phillis Levin, Hofstra’s poet in residence, says that poetry and sports are related in the sense that both the athlete and the poet “get in the zone.” A basketball player, when immersed in the game, does not think about each movement; it happens naturally.  He or she does not think “Okay now I am going to move my left leg, then my right...” the same way that a poet becomes immersed in language when writing.  Both poetry and sports are very connected to movement and the intuitive experience. Levin says, "the intuition itself is a result of long hours of practice and training translating into the ability to respond moment to moment to whatever arises."

"What basketball and poetry have in common is that they each provide opportunities to be better than yourself — opportunities for transcendence." -Stephen Dunn


Dunn and Academia

DunnApplies toGrad.jpg

Stephen Dunn was the first in his family to attend college.  As fellow Hofstra students, we are proud that Dunn attended Hofstra University on a basketball scholarship.  In an interview with Poets and Writers, Dunn said “My first job out of college was writing in-house brochures for Nabisco in New York, and I kept getting promoted. I was in danger, literally, of becoming like the men who were around me. So I quit and went to Spain to write a novel, and wrote a bad one. But I was trying to write poetry too, and those efforts seemed more promising. The rest, as they say, is history, or my history.” After his time in Spain, he attended the New School.  He received his MA in creative writing from Syracuse University. 

He has taught at Wichita State University, University of Washington, Columbia University, University of Michigan, Princeton University, and at Stockton University.




Dunn and Family


Dunn's first wife, who is pictured in the "Muse of Pulitzer Prize Poet" shirt is named Lois.  He then married a woman named Barbara. His correspondences in the archive give us access to the potential drama (that all humans tend to experience) in his personal relationships and can also be observed in some of his poetry. 

Dunn Reading

Please enjoy videos of Dunn reading his poems.

Dunn at the Poetry Center in Patterson New Jersey 


  A conversation on Writing with Stephen Dunn

Stephen Dunn reading and talking about his personal life and teaching life

About the Creators and Resources Used


This exhibit lists all the resources used throughout the site. It also provides information about the creators.