September 20th, 2010 / 5:55 am

Mike Young’s All Good for Free

Dennis Cooper said (our own) Mike Young’s collection of poetry, We Are All Good if They Try Hard Enough, is an absolute stunner, and that even though they’re just great poems, he “can’t think of a paragraph anywhere that can match them for style or cover their emotional distance.”

One element of the emotionality of Mike’s poems, which is evident from the funny but sincere video I’ve posted below the fold, is his interest in the way humans communicate and miscommunicate. The book’s epigraph is from Martin Buber, after all, and says, “When they sang of what they had thus named, they still meant You.”

I’ll be giving away three copies of Mike’s book. To win one, leave a comment below describing a miscommunication that was funny or ended up with a positive outcome, or just anything about a miscommunication. Mike and I will select three winners based on a complicated set of guidelines this Friday, so please make sure to leave a way I can get in touch with you.

Here’s that video I was telling you about. There is more good stuff at including more videos, more giveaways, more reviews about the book.



  1. C.D. Smith

      “ghosts? Father, I thought you said ‘goats’!”

  2. Joseph Riippi

      Someone said, It would have been a great novella if he’d cut out all that whale science shit.
      Someone else said, You mean cetology.

  3. Poor Sap

      I actually have a relationship (or non-relationship) right now steeped in miscommunication (or non-communication).

      My ex-girlfriend and I started dating the last week of last semester (early May). Then summer came, and we lived a few time zones apart, and, either because of ease or because there wasn’t as much passion as we had imagined, our communication over the course of four months was limited to text messages. Not phone calls, not e-mails, and, obviously, not letters; just the impersonal, often-ambiguous text message form. At some point I started reading passive-agression in her text messages (it may have been sarcasm), and she read waning interest in mine (it may have been my growing frustration with the impersonality of texting, the impersonality of communicating via any technology). I broke up with her in a text message, something I regretted even before clicking ‘send,’ the first day, the first night of school this year. She didn’t allow me the dignity to do the job in person. It was her last act of passive-aggression: Me- (in text message) Can we meet up tonight and talk? Her- (in text message) I don’t know what I’m doing tonight yet.

      I’ve since seen her in a history class we share, and at Faneuil Hall with her friends. A spoken word hasn’t passed between us. I wish I could talk to her, with my voice, readily aware of the contradictions that I might present to her. I’d be willing to risk exposing my vulnerability in my vocal intonations. I’d treasure the opportunity to communicate, directly, honestly, avoiding at all costs (maybe impossibly) miscommunicating my thoughts, feelings, and hopes for myself, for her, for us.

  4. C.D. Smith

      “ghosts? Father, I thought you said ‘goats’!”

  5. Michael

      I was at a picnic with my girlfriend’s uncle. Both of us enjoy food. He had some fish on his plate and I asked if I could have a bite, just to taste. He gave me a pained look and gave a non-committal “Sure.” He held onto his plate. Five minutes further in I hadn’t forgotten and asked again, and got the same response. For some reason I thought that I had to be more persistent, and asked at least three more times, never succeeding.

  6. AmyD

      In my early 20’s, I was on a guided tour in Italy for a few days, and our 60-something bus driver, who didn’t speak much English, kept saying that I was so beautiful, he wanted to take me home with him. Of course, this was a little creepy, until the third day when he pulled out a photo of his three (very hot!) sons and told me that he wanted to take me home with him, his sons all need wives.

  7. Shane Anderson

      In college, I was taking two philosophy grad seminars back to back, something which isn’t advised at all. In the middle of the two three hour seshs, i’d go get some coffee at this really nice coffee shop. The guy behind the counter was very kind to my mental mush state. At some point, he started to give me free coffee, sometimes even a free scone. I was too bewildered to question it, usually left my money on the counter anyway, which he must have pocketed as a tip. Then one day, he poured me another free hot cup of Joe and said, ‘hey, yr fly.’ By which I thought he meant, ‘hey, you’re fly.’ I was a little perplexed because it meant all the free hot coffee and tips probably meant something to him that it didn’t to me. He seemed nice enough and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Confused, I said ‘thank you, you’re very nice too’ and left. Half a block later, there was a gust of wind and I felt a breeze in my drawers. No, he wasn’t hitting on me, he was just trying to help a bro out, by way of ‘hey, your fly [zipper].’ I don’t really remember the seminar after that -the world took a bit of a spin there on me- but I do remember that our coffee agreement continued as before.

  8. Rich Baiocco

      I worked with an elder woman a few months ago trying to organize her paintings of new york city–watercolors, light and ephemeral, beautiful by my amateur soul. She was heavyset and bound to wheelchair, more or less crammed though without complaint. She said her worst fear was if the wheelchair battery died while she crossing 5th Avenue.
      I said: that won’t happen.
      She said: It happens; it’s happened to people I know.
      I immediately pictured it happening to her–it looked awful.
      We spoke about her being lonely, though we never used the word lonely, about her family all have past away, about her only art exhibit being at the Salamangundi Art Center but since they didn’t have a wheelchair ramp up the front steps she had to wait outside, the battery on her wheelchair draining.
      “Technology is crazy,” she said. ‘They can tell everything about the birth of a baby–the gender, the due date, maybe the hour–but only one person knows when we die.”
      “Yeah,” I nodded. “God,” thinking we were going there. But at the same time she answered: “Kevorkian.”
      And I thought, ‘damn, that’s real talk.’

      We charged the wheelchair. We finished the book.

      Rich Baiocco

  9. Dan

      Yesterday I was at a coffeeshop and I went up to the counter holding an empty plastic cup beneath my arm. i was about to order and the guy behind the counter pointed at the cup and started laughing, and i said, “what? are you pointing at me?” and he pointed again, and i put the cup in my hand, and he pointed at it and said “what is that, why do you have that” and laughed and i said “i was getting some water i guess but i drank it” and then he laughed and took the cup and then i ordered an iced coffee and he gave it to me in the cup and laughed again.

      I felt like there was something i missed there.


      i guess i am using ‘disqus’ so i feel that this should be enough to ‘find’ me

  10. christopher.

      Dude, the text message decresendo of a relationship is no fucking joke. I’ve been through something almost exactly like that, waiting around constantly, sick and wondering when I might get another message from her, wondering if I responded too quickly to a message whether I seem too longing, too overbearing.

      I’m glad that’s over; I’m glad to be married now.
      Sorry to hear about your ordeal, man.

  11. deadgod

      That’s a great idea for a contest: communications of tales of miscommunication. They could be comical, poignant, perhaps unsettling – best if they have positive outcomes, right? – but no smiley-faced requirements.

      Say – when will this competition take place? Where can people provide and/or read the entries? What’s the prize? Who’re the judges, and when will she/he/they make their decisions?

      Let me know ASAP – [‘text me’ emoticon]!

  12. Adam Robinson

      Um. Uh, “I’ll be giving away three copies of Mike’s book. To win one, leave a comment below describing a miscommunication that was funny or ended up with a positive outcome, or just anything about a miscommunication. Mike and I will select three winners based on a complicated set of guidelines this Friday, so please make sure to leave a way I can get in touch with you.”

  13. deadgod

      Um. Uh, “leave a comment below describing a miscommunication[.]”

  14. Jon Cone

      “Pass the bread, please?”

      “Excuse me.”

      “The bread. Please pass me the bread.”



      “I thought you said, ‘Pass the dread.'”

      “I didn’t say that.”

      “I know that now …”

  15. Jeremiah

      See above.

  16. Tim Horvath

      We were newly-arrived to Alaska for a summer literature program. The rain would pummel us for six weeks, nonstop, but that first weekend there was still a sun and we were in Juneau and it was all new. We were walking around the city, exploring, four of us, and we passed this amazing mural on the the side of a building, a raven and a whale and other splendid creatures, all of them rendered in the Tlingit fashion, elongated mythopoetic angular shapes and bold reds, blues, and blacks. Behind it you could see the mountains towering above everything, and with that view as the backdrop, one of us snorted and said, “Who needs a mural?” But one of us heard it as, “Who needs Europe?” and the conversation took a turn–true, with these powerful archetypal figures of indigenous peoples, it did seem like Europe itself was less than necessary, and suddenly we could imagine a world in which there was no Europe, no Dante, no Shakespeare, none of it, just these tricksters and the storytellers of the north and their oral tradition. For all I know, Michael Chabon was listening from around a corner and was like, “Hell, who needs Israel?” and started writing notes for The Yiddish Policemen’s Union right then and there. Of course one of us had to rescue Europe from oblivion–we were giddy and earnest and full of shit. Someone rushed to get Dante’s back and we must have tossed around the idea of the canon for fifteen minutes or so before the first person said, “No, man, I said, ‘Who needs a mural?'” and we all kind of backpedaled and said, “Oh, yeah, we got that, we were just kidding and anyway it’s an interesting topic.” But to this day I can’t pass a mural-covered wall without thinking, “Who needs Europe?”

  17. Mike Young

      oh, i just got this, haha

  18. andrew

      “He said to get back on the bus,
      to get back on the bus now.”

      -Michael Earl Craig

  19. David NeSmith

      Once the house I was renting in Richmond was on fire. The fireman came up to me and said, “Is there anyone in there that we should know about?”

      I said, “Just my cat!”

      And he ran off straight into the house. And I was like… wow… must be a cat lover.

      About 10 minutes later he came back huffing and puffing and shouted… “I LOOKED EVERYWHERE BUT I CAN’T FIND YOUR DAD!!!!!”