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Issue 41/42 : July - December, 2008 : Volume 11 No 1/2

Stanley H. Barkan

“A poet who was more for others than for himself”

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
But if I’m for myself only, what am I?
And if not now, when?”


Robert Dunn was for himself as a poet, but much more not just for himself only. As a matter of fact, he was much for other poets than he ever was for just himself. He was that rarity among poets: a poet who was more for others than himself.

I had met Robert many years ago while he was, with others— Thomas “Pepper” Catterson (his best friend and poetry partner), Leigh Harrison, Anthony Scarpantonio— directing “Poet to Poet,” an organization that presented poets at various venues throughout the Greater New York Area (including series at Barnes & Noble and Borders) and on a TV program of their design. At this time, he was also editing Medicinal Purposes, a literary magazine that he designed, edited, and illustrated with very amusing cartoons, interspersed with his very witty short verses in various forms and under various pseudonyms.

After a while, I published, two of his eight books—Zen Yentas in Bondage and Guilty as Charged, as well as served as co-publisher/distributor of his cd, Sickly Minutes, his last publication.

Later, after Pepper died and the “Poet to Poet” group disintegrated and Medicinal Purposes, for lack of financial support, ceased publication, because he could not give up on providing a forum, a place to shine, for the poets he cared so much about, he started up another magazine, named significantly, Asbestos, which has turned out to be his last hurrah.

And during these later years, he served as Consulting Editor of the Bengali international New York-based magazine, Shabdaguchha, and being of help in numerous ways to Hassanal Abdullah, the editor, and his family, being a special friend to them, they who became a second family to him, along with his fellow poets.

All during these many years I’d known Robert, he was always concentrating on the problems of the poets he shared efforts with in that original organization and the magazines he edited and published and the events he produced for them. And, all during this same time, he never neglected his mother: bringing her to all the events, eventually in a wheelchair, and even while she was in an assisted-living facility.

Robert was truly one of those rarities—a poet who was not just for himself. He had a wit that rivaled Ogden Nash and Shel Silverstein, and never failed to elicit a laugh, if not an illumination of intellect, and he always did this with good humor, never attacking anyone in particular, always pin-pricking the vice, not any person.

We will miss his fine wit, his high level of integrity, his genuine friendship, and his good heart, this boy who never forgot his mother, this fellow poet, cartoonist, editor, director, publisher who spared no effort for his fellow poets and friends, this fine man who could always be relied on.

When comes such another?

Stanley H. Barkan, Poet/Publisher, Cross-Cultural Communications, Merrick, NY

Shabdaguchha, an International Bilingual Poetry Journal, edited by Hassanal Abdullah