Peter Campion's review of Stephen Dunn's latest book ("Ten Takes," November, 2004) has left me dumbstruck. Did Campion read the book? Does he know Dunn's oeuvre, or was he just trying to define himself against Dunn's reputation by taking cheap and unconsidered potshots? I was baffled by comments such as "morally vacuous platitude," "rhetorical inflation," and "we're never allowed to see the mind in action." Did Campion read the villanelle, "Grudges," which is an example of Dunn's blending the personal and political in finely rendered form? Or the title poem, which is a deeply political and philosophical observation in response to 9/11? Frankly, this collection may be Dunn's most overtly political, yet Campion suggests that it is one-dimensional and excessively personal, ending his equivocations and pronouncements with a strange analogy about a bed and breakfast that could only have been meant to offend. Dunn's readers aren't asked to lie in a Laura Ashley coverlet and sip Celestial Seasonings tea. He asks us to do the most terrifying thing in the world: look at the self head-on, stripped bare, without subterfuge, but with grace. The Insistence of Beauty is about what can be found in the crevasses of our livesof which there are manyand our ability to look into them without sentimentality and discern among the shards something salvageable, something that demands rescuingor what will prevail if we do not.
Galloway, New Jersey