Stephen Dunn, Poet Who Celebrated the Ordinary, Dies at 82

At a reunion of that 23-1 Hofstra team in 2000, Mr. Dunn, who had continued to enjoy playing basketball for years after his collegiate prime, read his poem “Losing Steps,” which ends this way:

you’re walking to a schoolyard
where kids are playing full-court,
telling yourself
the value of the experience, a worn down
basketball under your arm,
your legs hanging from your waist
like misplaced sloths in a country
known for its cheetahs and its sunsets.

After his time playing for the Billies, Mr. Dunn made a start in advertising. But at 26 he abandoned it and went to Spain to try to write a novel; he did, he said, but threw it away. Returning to the United States, he enrolled in the creative writing program at Syracuse University, at 29 an outlier among younger classmates.

“All the 22-year-olds in the creative writing program at Syracuse were more advanced in their reading than I was,” he wrote in his article for the Pulitzer site. “My advantage was that the talk about poems and poetry was all new to me. I had an amateur’s wonderment.”

He received his master’s degree there in 1970 and began to take writing poetry seriously. He started teaching at Stockton in 1974 and stayed for some 30 years, even after the Pulitzer brought him offers from bigger-name institutions.

“I felt lucky to live in a place and teach at a school that was in the process of becoming, lucky not to be living in Paris or Manhattan,” he told The Press of Atlantic City in 2011.

“Stockton and South Jersey,” he added, “proved to be very good for me and my work.”

Mr. Dunn married Lois Kelly in 1964; they divorced in 2001. After marrying the writer Barbara Hurd in 2002, he relocated to Frostburg. In addition to Ms. Hurd and his daughter Susanne, who is from his first marriage, he is survived by another daughter from that marriage, Andrea Dunn; a stepdaughter, Tara Perry; a stepson, Adam Wilson; two grandchildren; and four step-grandchildren.

Mr. Dunn turned 60 in 1999, with a new century beckoning. He wrote a poem to mark the occasion, “Sixty,” which was included in his Pulitzer-winning collection. It ends this way:

The millennium,
my dear, is sure to disappoint us.
I think I’ll keep on describing things
to ensure that they really happened.

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