Stephen Dunn: The Fanmail

A letter by BJ Ward

A letter by B J Ward

A letter by Gail J Peck

A letter by Gail J Peck

Fanmail to Stephen Dunn

Fanmail to Stephen Dunn

A letter by Fenton Johnson

A letter by Fenton Johnson

Many of these correspondents appeared to have either attended one of Dunn’s readings or have been in touch with him for a certain period of time. As I read them in depth, I realized that these are not mere fan-mails. Their content is deep enough, and specific enough to call them correspondences between friends or critiquing partners. One such interesting letter discussed the effect of Dunn’s “Loves” on children that the correspondent teaches. She says, “It jumpstarts them immediately into their own lists, which often are poems themselves or provide a great set of topics to spin off from” (1994). The writer also thanks Dunn for the exchange of sound advice that influenced her work.

Another important thing to notice is how much people admire Dunn for his teaching skills. In fact, comments on his teaching skills is the single most prevalent theme in such letters. For example, in one of the letters, the writer commended Dunn’s reading and how Dunn “teaches me [him] to think, not in some narrow fashion, and not just with my mind, but also with my heart” (Peck, 1994). In another such letter, the writer thanks Dunn for “bruising his pride” by critical comments so that his work can improve (Ward 1994). One such letter that I resonate with, is a letter by a prose writer. He says, “As I re-read “Loves” for the umpteenth time, it strikes me, a prose writer, what terror and joy must come with your territory - - being a poet, whose hope it surely must be that a reader would look at your work again and again and again. How good you have to be, to support that kind of scrutiny” (Johnson 1995). He goes to discuss various techniques of poetry, and line structure etc. As a prose writer myself, I completely agree with it, and found this letter to be very relatable. As mentioned above, all these letters are not simply fan-mails, they are correspondences between two friends who admire each other’s work.

For more information on Stephen Dunn and Stephen Dunn Correspondences please visit:

The Man Behind the Poet by Dayna Troisi and Quescilla Brooks 

The Path to the Pulitzer by Leyna Figliozzi and Jennifer Southard

Touching Across Letters by Itiola Jones 

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Stephen Dunn: The Fanmail