Here is one of the poems that Stephen read today. It was in the brochure we all got; I think it is from his book, Loosestrife, Norton, 1998
Because you can be what you’re not
for only so long,
one day the tiger cub raised by goats
wandered to the lake and saw himself.
It was astounding
to have a face like that, cat-handsome,
hornless, and we can imagine he stared
a long time, then sipped
and pivoted, bemused yet burdened now
with choice. The mother goat had nursed him.
The others had tolerated
his silly quickness and claws.
And because once you know who you are
you need not rush,
and good parents are a blessing
whoever they are, he went back to them,
rubbing up against
their bony shins, keeping his secret to himself.
but after a while the tiger who’d found
his true face
felt the disturbing hungers, those desires
to get low in the reeds, swish his tail
Because he was a cat he disappeared
without goodbyes, his goat-parents relieved
such a thing was gone.
And we can imagine how, alone and beyond
choice, he wholly became who he was—
that zebra or gazelle
stirring the great blood rush and odd calm
as he discovered, while moving, what needed
to be done.
This is, I think, a terrific poem! It moves right along without making a false step. This is a very good example of the type of poem that relates a story or fable. I think it would be a good poem to study with an English class. Notice the variation in line lengths and how the poem flows across the line breaks so smoothly. And how the details are so well worked-out (through observation of people, cats and goats!) and support the story. Also look for Stephen Dunn's very new book, Lines of Defense, Norton, 2014. Earlier he won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, Different Hours, which is also a fine introduction to his poetry. It was an excellent event; I am really glad I got to attend!