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By Stephen Dunn

Anyone who begins a sentence with, “In all honesty … ”

is about to tell a lie. Anyone who says, “This is how I feel”

had better love form more than disclosure. Same for anyone

who thinks he thinks well because he had a thought.


If  you say, “You’re ugly” to an ugly person — no credit

for honesty, which must always be a discovery, an act

that qualifies as an achievement. If  you persist

you’re just a cruel bastard, a pig without a mirror,


somebody who hasn’t examined himself enough.

A hesitation hints at an attempt to be honest, suggests

a difficulty is present. A good sentence needs

a clause or two, interruptions, set off  by commas,


evidence of a slowing down, a rethinking.

Before I asked my wife to marry me, I told her

I’d never be fully honest. No one, she said,

had ever said that to her. I was trying


to be radically honest, I said, but in fact

had another motive. A claim without a “but” in it

is, at best, only half  true. In all honesty,

I was asking in advance to be forgiven.


  • Arts & Sciences
  • Living
  • Love

Poet Bio

Stephen Dunn
Stephen Dunn came into national prominence when his eleventh book, Different Hours, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. Born in Forest Hills, New York, Dunn took a degree from Hofstra University in History and English in 1962 and was a key player on the school’s greatest-ever basketball team; he later earned a MA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. His accessible work conveys its insights through quiet reflections on everyday events and central human dilemmas.

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