Get Lit Minute

Stephen Dunn | "Sweetness"

August 08, 2022 Get Lit - Words Ignite Season 4 Episode 10
Get Lit Minute
Stephen Dunn | "Sweetness"
Show Notes

In this week's episode of the Get Lit Minute, your weekly poetry podcast, we spotlight the life and work of poet, Stephen Dunn. He has worked as a professional basketball player, an advertising copywriter, and an editor, as well as a professor of creative writing.​ Dunn's books of poetry include Lines of Defense (W. W. Norton, 2014); Different Hours (2000); Local Time (1986); and Looking For Holes In the Ceiling (1974). Source

This episode includes a reading of his poem, "Sweetness". See more of his work in our Get Lit Anthology.


Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear   

   one more friend   

waking with a tumor, one more maniac   


with a perfect reason, often a sweetness   

   has come   

and changed nothing in the world   


except the way I stumbled through it,   

   for a while lost   

in the ignorance of loving   


someone or something, the world shrunk   

   to mouth-size,   

hand-size, and never seeming small.   


I acknowledge there is no sweetness   

   that doesn’t leave a stain,   

no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet ....   


Tonight a friend called to say his lover   

   was killed in a car   

he was driving. His voice was low   


and guttural, he repeated what he needed   

   to repeat, and I repeated   

the one or two words we have for such grief    


until we were speaking only in tones.   

   Often a sweetness comes   

as if on loan, stays just long enough   


to make sense of what it means to be alive,   

   then returns to its dark   

source. As for me, I don’t care   


where it’s been, or what bitter road   

   it’s traveled   

to come so far, to taste so good.

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