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Carl Dennis

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Nationality  American
Siblings  Robert Dennis
Role  Poet
Name  Carl Dennis
Notable work  Practical Gods

Carl Dennis Unknown Friends Carl Dennis
Born  September 17, 1939 (age 76) (1939-09-17) St. Louis, Missouri
Occupation  Poet and college professor
Education  University of California, Berkeley (1966)
Awards  Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, US & Canada
Books  Practical Gods, Poetry as persuasion, Unknown Friends, New and selected poems - 1, Ranking the wishes

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Carl Dennis (born September 17, 1939), an American poet and educator. His book Practical Gods won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for poetry.


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Life and work

Carl Dennis UB to present public reading by poet Carl Dennis on May 21

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 17, 1939, Dennis attended Oberlin College and the University of Chicago before receiving his bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota in 1961. In 1966, Dennis received his Ph.D. in English literature from the University of California, Berkeley. That same year he became an assistant professor of English at University at Buffalo, where he has spent most of his career; in 2002, he became an artist-in-residence there. Dennis has also served on the faculty of the graduate program at Warren Wilson College.

Carl Dennis Poetry Reading Carl Dennis Photo Album The Union Photo

Dennis has received several prizes for his poetry in addition to the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, including a Fellowship at the Rockefeller Study Center in Bellagio, Italy, a Guggenheim Fellowship (1984), a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry (1988), and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize (2000).

Carl Dennis Poetry Reading Carl Dennis Photo Album The Union Photo

Dennis is the brother of American composer Robert Dennis.

Dennis's Poetry

Dennis writes often of quotidian, middle-class life, but beneath the modest, reasonably lighted surfaces of the poems lie unexpected possibilities that create contrast and vibrancy. An example from his 1984 collection The Near World is "The Man on My Porch Makes Me an Offer," which begins:

"Above all houses in our town I've always loved this blue one you own With its round turret and big bay window. Do you dream about it the way I do? Wouldn't you be just as happy On a street with more trees In a larger house, whose columned porch Impresses every passer-by? Does it seem fair that you've won the right To gaze from these windows your whole life Merely because you saw them first, And consign me to a life of envy?"

William Slaughter has given a close reading of this poem in an essay comparing poems by William Stafford, Dennis, and Louis Simpson. The form of Dennis's poem - a plainspoken, dramatic monologue - is fairly characteristic of his poetry. In the poem "Progressive Health" (from Practical Gods) Dennis uses a similar approach for a proposition that is a bioethicist's nightmare.

In some of his more recent poems, Dennis invokes guardian angels and other domestic deities to animate his poetry. In his 2004 review, David Orr wrote:

"In 'The God Who Loves You,' his strongest poem in this vein, Dennis avoids bathos by deftly changing the focus from our own anguish at missed opportunities to the grief of the god who loves us. As the poet reminds us:

The difference between what is And what could have been will remain alive for him Even after you cease existing, after you catch a chill Running out in the snow for the morning paper Losing eleven years that the god who loves you Will feel compelled to imagine scene by scene.

Dennis's language here is so quiet and straightforward that when he alters course yet again to imagine the transformation of a god in the mind of his reader, the change seems natural. This is public poetry that sounds private -- an achievement that's easy to underestimate."

In his 1984 review, Tom Sleigh addressed the originality of Dennis's art:

"The reader feels hemmed in by Mr. Dennis's laconic truths because they make visible the narrow cage of circumstance and contingency in which we live. Many poets attempt this, but how many succeed? His distinctive force originates in his insidious determination to stay inside that cage, to map it inch by inch and find there - or nowhere - the justifications for human action."


Carl Dennis Wikipedia

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