Completely Subjective: Stephen Dunn’s “The Imagined”

People, including myself, sometimes live in the imaginary side of the world. I think about unrealistic circumstances where I always come out on top. I dream about things that are unrealistic. These things range from the topics of sports to aspects of my daily life. Last Saturday, I sat in my bed thinking about the football I had watched throughout the day. I put myself in a player’s shoes and imagined myself running onto the field, looking up to see 100,000 fans staring down on me. This type of unrealistic thinking is fun and does not have any consequences. However, there are cases where living in fantasies can be dangerous and it is a necessity that people know that the imaginary part of the world can potentially hurt them. In BAP’s 2012 Poetry edition, Stephen Dunn’s,“The Imagined,” portrays a husband and a wife who both have imaginary lovers. These lovers fulfill their day and act accordingly to the mind of the husband or wife. The narrator, who takes the husband’s shoes, constantly shows the reader that the imaginary lover bothers him. It brings him to question the legitimacy in his own marriage, saying, “why is it that you always bring her along on vacations when the real woman is shopping…?” and “do you prefer how she goes about the house as she does, as if there were just the two of you?” (34). The imaginary people, as I see it, are leading the couple into a break up or a divorce. The two cannot differentiate between the real and fake parts of their lives. Therefore, I think the author is trying to show readers that it is always better to live in reality than what is imagined. The imaginary part of the world can create chaos in relationships and in all aspects of life.

I can personally relate to this poem, not through a past relationship but through an injury I sustained last year. I had surgery on my shoulder and throughout the whole recovery process the only thing I thought about was getting back to what I normally do as quickly as possible. I set time frames for myself for when I would be doing such and such. I always thought about playing sports and really just anything other than sitting on the couch doing nothing. However, as it turns out, I was never able to do a lot of the things I had dreamed of doing and the things I was able to do took way longer than expected. This was really difficult for me to handle because of the fact that I had imagined it so much, only to be let down. Similar to Dunn’s case where he constantly dreams of an imagined women, only to realize that he is stuck with the real one.

The author, Stephen Dunn, is an extremely accomplished poet and has received prizes such as the Pulitzer Prize and multiple fellowship awards. This particular poem, “The Imagined”, is unlike some of his other poems and has a direct interpretation of his past. Dunn went through a messy divorce and the possible mindset that him and his past wife had is shown in the poem. The narrator had an imaginary wife that he dreamed of and constantly kept her in his life, to cope with the misfortunes of his real one. Vice versa, his wife had an imaginary man who she believed was a way better fit than her current husband. These imagined people, in the case of Dunn, ultimately led to the demise of the two because both, husband and wife, could do nothing but think and hope for the imagined world they had set for themselves. Dunn wants to make sure that the dreamed and thought of aspects of the world never interfere with the real one. He has gone through a real life scenario where imagining a better life for oneself can only hurt and he wants to make clear the dangers of this for his readers.

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