What Goes On: Selected and New Poems 1995-2009

What Goes On selects work from Stephen Dunn’s six most recent books, as well as new poems. In a new poem titled "Please Understand (A Bachelor’s Valentine)," Dunn writes, "Please understand. I’ve never been able to tell / what’s worth more—what I want or what I have." This dichotomy, between one’s life and the lives one could lead, troubles the stories in many of the poems in this book. Dunn explores the sometimes dangerous desire for another kind of life and what happens when one has turned away from the expected trajectories one is following, what happens if one turns away from a lover, from the natural arc of a conversation, from comfort. These clear, honest poems do not shy away from self-criticism or the awkwardness of change. They do investigate how to expand the possible and stay close to the unknown.

This book review originally appeared in American Poets.