Breaking Down The Final Version
As we look through Stephen Dunn’s revision process, it is imperative that we understand where the poem ended. Having a full grasp of the poem’s final version helps us as we look through each of the seventeen versions. This will help us to see how the poem has: sharped its word choice, refined its message, and has moved to a “completed” version. So join me, as we break down this poem, stanza by stanza.
Epigraph: The poem starts with an interesting structural choice. The epigraph is off set from the rest of the poem but it is not italicizede. This gives the first few lines a kind of an aside feel. However, once we read the stanza, the reader is shown the inspiration for the poem. Giving the aside feel to these lines, one can conclude that this is merely a way to introduce the inspiration to the poem.
This opening stanza brings the reader right into the world of the poem. After following the “inspirational” epigraph, these lines truly standout. Frist, the voice is completely different then the inspirational epigraph. Thus helping the first stanza standout even more. These lines bring up both the desire, and the desire to be desired. Moreover, these lines talk about the mystery of desire, but also eludes the the dangers of being desirable. Dunn then uses enjambment at the end of the lines to push forward to the next stanza.
With the enjambment from the first stanza, Dunn finishes the line with a very visceral description. Alert and aggressive, do a lot of work to show the dangers of being desirable. Men are threatened by the attractiveness of the “competition”. Thus this line is highlighting the alpha male presence. What is interesting within the stanza, is the next line Dunn opposes this “alpha” male presence, by stating, “I seldom wear it”. Thus, the coat is turning into a metaphor for hyper-masculinity. Again Dunn chooses to end the stanza with an enjambed line.
Again we see the enjambment doing a lot of work. With the enjambment elongating the line and having this juxtapose with the first word, further, this highlights a long tradition of hyper-masculinity. The stanza continues this “long” imagery by continuing the line and enjambment into even the next stanza.
This stanza finally finishes the sentence from stanza two. Dunn ends the sentence with a wonderful image. We have a picture of a god, eros, standing still, almost like a stone statue, waiting for that spark to bring him to life. This is showing that hyper-masculinity the the effect of a cause. Thus being desired and being desirable, is the spark for a man to wear the coat.
This stanza is highlighting the duality of hyper-masculinity. That it can be turned on and off, or in this case of the poem, wore. Dunn is highlighting the addictiveness of always “wearing” the sport coat.
In this Dunn again talks about how wearing this coat makes him feel good, but at the same time, he is itchy. He wants to test the boundaries of this “coat”; how far can one man take his hyper-masculinity.
This stanza addresses the duality of masculinity directly by asking the question about being a timid man.
Here the stanza is bringing to light the competition. He is juxtaposing the sport coat against the fine, and expensive suit.
Here the poem culminates with the speaker addressing hyper-masculinity. Dunn is highlighting that hyper-masculinity is the superior trait. What is also curious is how he ends the poem without punctuation. Again, like the enjambment, this elongates the line. With it being the last line, this eludes to the fact that the duality and the complexity of masculinity is not finite.