Stephen Dunn was born on June 24, 1939, in Forest Hills, Queens. He graduated from Forest Hills High School in 1957. He earned a BA in history and English from Hofstra University, attended the New School Writing Workshops, and finished his MA in creative writing at Syracuse University.
Dunn’s books of poetry include the posthumous collection The Not Yet Fallen World (W. W. Norton, 2022); Pagan Virtues (W. W. Norton, 2019); Lines of Defense (W. W. Norton, 2014); Here and Now: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2011); What Goes On: Selected and New Poems 1995-2009 (W. W. Norton, 2009); Everything Else in the World (W. W. Norton, 2006); Local Visitations (W. W. Norton, 2003); Different Hours (W. W. Norton, 2000), winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry; Loosestrife (W. W. Norton, 1996), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; New and Selected Poems: 1974–1994 (W. W. Norton, 1994); Landscape at the End of the Century (W. W. Norton, 1991); Between Angels (W. W. Norton, 1989); Local Time (William Morrow & Co., 1986), winner of the National Poetry Series; Not Dancing (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1984); Work & Love (HarperCollins, 1981); A Circus of Needs (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1978); Full of Lust and Good Usage (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1976); and Looking For Holes In the Ceiling (University of Massachusetts Press, 1974). He is also the author of Walking Light: Memoirs and Essays on Poetry (BOA Editions, 2001), and Riffs & Reciprocities: Prose Pairs (W. W. Norton, 1998).
About Dunn’s work, the poet Billy Collins has written:
The art lies in hiding the art, Horace tells us, and Stephen Dunn has proven himself a master of concealment. His honesty would not be so forceful were it not for his discrete formality; his poems would not be so strikingly naked were they not so carefully dressed.
Dunn’s other honors include the Academy Award for Literature, the James Wright Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. He has taught poetry and creative writing and held residencies at Wartburg College, Wichita State University, Columbia University, University of Washington, Syracuse University, Southwest Minnesota State College, Princeton University, and University of Michigan.
Dunn has worked as a professional basketball player, an advertising copywriter, and an editor, as well as a professor of creative writing. Dunn was the distinguished professor of creative writing at Richard Stockton College and lived in Frostburg, Maryland with his wife, the writer Barbara Hurd. He passed away on June 25, 2021.