dean young

On Embarrassment

**Note after the fact: let me just preface this little bit by saying that while I’m confessing a feeling I get writing for a group internet blog, I am not confessing something deep and wrong about my own character. Please, don’t comment about my self-esteem. I’m pretty fucking okay. I meant for this post to be more concentrated on thinking about how internet culture, for me, demeans things deemed “more traditional” in art. That and my feelings about groupthink. Sorry if it comes across as something else.  I’m going to keep it as is anyway.

Sometimes I’m embarrassed by my favorite poems–most of the time that tiny flash of shame comes when I’m writing for HMTL. I feel like I have to be hip and cool, read things that are experimental and edgy (which, by the way, I do and also love). Like most HTML contributors I read widely and variously, and the cool thing about being a contributor here is that we do read variously, have different tastes, get excited by totally disparate things. Yet somehow I’m still embarrassed by my roots–the poems I can’t shake, obsess on, memorize–when I sit down to write posts. Those poets and poems that turned me into a poet from the outset somehow seem out of step with the 21st century (Dean Young being the exception?), or at least with the internet’s version of it. But they are my epiphany moments. For me, the brilliance of these poems comes not from experiment or postmodern aesthetic (we’re past that, right?), or political stance, though I think you could argue for those things. The brilliance of these poems derives from their depth of thinking about the human experience: the history of knowledge, the cold zero of perfection, the universal solvents and pilgrim souls, language’s redemptive power. I think, here, I’m supposed to be too cool for being in uncertainties, Mysteries, and doubts, that the simulation of being literati somehow precedes the ability to feel deeply. It’s as if I’m supposed to, but can’t, say everything with a wink and a nod. I’m probably wrong; likely, I’m being insecure, a wild child who has been invited into a gentleman’s club in which I feel sometimes validated and other times lost in the woods all over again. If you want to read a rant on “joining” at my blog, you can. It’ll maybe explain some of my feelings. Or you can just read some good poems from me to you.

Elizabeth Bishop, “At the Fishhouses”

Mark Strand, “Always”

Yusef Komunyakaa, “My Father’s Loveletters”

Philip Levine, “They Feed They Lion”

WB Yeats, “When You Are Old”

Dean Young, “Sunflower”



Random / 21 Comments
November 3rd, 2011 / 12:05 pm

I admit it. I’ve been googling myself again. It’s Sunday afternoon. I’m stalling. Around page nine of my name –a few entries away from the really strange link asking if I want to find intelligence on my father–I stumbled across (not to be confused with Stumbling Upon, which would have been way less creepy) an excellent review in The Rumpus of Dean Young’s The Art of Recklessness by Darcie Dennigan. The review includes Walt Whitman’s semen in a conch shell, Peter Pan, Gertrude Stein on a spring day, and lots of oceanic hullabaloo, including shipwrecks. I’m always quoting Leopardi: How easeful to be wrecked in seas like these.

“…[Y]ou’ll never become the writer you want to become. You’ll never be satisfied, never really know if you are any good. You’ll never be certain.”—from a 1998 letter by Dean Young to his nephew, the writer Seth Pollins. The entire thing is here, and it’s well worth reading. (Worth relinking to this open letter from Tony Hoagland about Dean’s current medical problems, I think.)

Dean Young’s Heart Transplant Fund

From a letter by Tony Hoagland at the National Foundation for Transplants

Dear Friends,

If you are reading this, you are probably a friend of Dean Young and/or a friend of poetry. And you may have heard that our friend is in a precarious position. Dean needs a heart transplant now. He also needs your assistance now.

Over the past 10 or 15 years, Dean has lived with a degenerative heart condition–congestive heart failure due to idiopathic hypotropic cardiomyopathy. After periods of more-or-less remission, in which his heart was stabilized and improved with the help of medications, the function of his heart has worsened. Now, radically.

Donations can be made here (be sure to make the gift in honor of Dean Young), or via an address at the bottom of the link above.

Author News / 11 Comments
December 9th, 2010 / 1:26 am

Check out the Teleportal Readings videos. They are stunning. The one of Dean Young reading, OMG, I was watching it, loving the amazing book art fly around, and I had that rare feeling of wanting something to last forever and simultaneously wanting it to end so I could find out who mad such a mad masterpiece.


The Art of Recklessness

I’m reading Dean Young’s new nonfiction book, The Art of Recklessness, part of The Art Of Series from Graywolf Press. Only 30 pages in, and I feel like I’ve swan dived into the swirling, dangerous waters of Young’s unbelievably complex collector’s brain. I love it. Here’s a review.

On page 12, Young quotes Wallace Stevens:

It is necessary to any originality to have the courage to be an amateur.

This is the exact idea I want to relay to my students when school starts next week. Not being shackled to rules, allowing poems to fall out of you un-self-consciously, is what makes great art. Learning craft so that you don’t have to think about it should probably happen simultaneously, but without imagination, recklessness, fire you’re fucked.

This is a different kind of book, one that might be the most important kind. I’ll follow up when I’ve actually finished reading it.

August 12th, 2010 / 8:26 am

Coldfront has posted their Year in Review 2009 ranking all things poetical, or not. Best ranking categories: Best Opening and Closing Lines in a Collection. Best Cover. And Dean Young’s 31 Poems (Forklift, Ink) got a nod in the Best Selected/Collected category (the book DOES rock) and the Best Physical Artifact category (while looking like a million bucks).