"Dean Young is a high-energy poet. . . . His vigorous, vibrant, fast-paced poems make startling connections."--Judges' citation, Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist "Anyone with a heartbeat knows that Dean Young has become a crucial nucleotide in the DNA of American poetry."--Tony Hoagland "The language, the invention, the imagination, and the sheer fun of his poems are astounding."--Charles Simic Dean Young surmounts the failures of love and the body with his signature humor, verbal banter, and wild imaginative leaps. Embracing the elegiac, angry, and amorous with surrealistic wordplay and off-kilter music, Young coaxes us to "fall higher" into an intimate, vulnerable, expansive exchange. This is a major new book by one of America's most inventive poets. I was satisfied with haiku until I met you, jar of octopus, cuckoo's cry, 5-7-5, but now I want a Russian novel, a 50 page description of you sleeping, another 75 of what you think staring out a window. I don't care about the plot although I suppose there will have to be one, the usual separation of the lovers, turbulent seas, danger of de-commission in spite of constant war, time in gulps and glitches passing, squibs of threnody, a fallen nest, speckled eggs somehow uncrushed, the sled out-racing the wolves on the steppes, the huge glittering ball where all that matters is a kiss at the end of a dark hall . . . Dean Young has published ten books of poetry, including finalists for the Pulitzer and Griffin Poetry Prizes. He teaches at the University of Texas, Austin.
color, flushed, swooning, echolating
and often associated with flight
as in Keats's viewless wings of Poesy,
a weird statement. The wings can't see?
Are invisible like Wonder Woman's plane?
Poetry is a good provider of the strange.
(From the poem Non-Apologia)
In his Fall Higher collection of poems Dean Young once again is a good provider of the strange. He's often referred to as "one of our most inventive poets", and that's what I like best about him - his ability to make us look at the world with a fresh eye, and often laugh at it, through his sometimes stream of consciousness connections and laser-true commentary. In this one he seems more bilious than in previous collections; those feeling chirpily sanguine (phrase cribbed from Richard) may find themselves more morose and disgruntled after reading this one.
In this poem, titled Undertow, he has the sea thinking about itself with a "sudden out-loud laughter snort":
Oh, what the
hell, I probably drove myself crazy
thinks the sea, kissing all those strangers,
forgiving them no matter what, liars
in confession, vomiters of plastics
and fossil fuels but what a stricken
elixir I've become even to my becalmed depths,
while through its head swim a million
fishes seemingly made of light
eating each other.
He knows he can be hard to follow. At one point he says, "Try to stay with me, okay?" (Wolf Lying in Snow). And he can be silly. "I like napkins folded into swans/ because I like wiping my mouth on swans." (Commencement Address). He can be romantic:
because of you I'm talking to crickets, clouds,
confiding in a cat. Everyone says
Come to your senses, and I do, of you.
Every touch electric, every taste you,
every smell, even burning sugar, every
cry and laugh. Toothpicked samples
at the farmer's market, every melon,
plum, I come undone, undone.
(Delphiniums in a Window Box).
And for me he can be profound. After wondering over our fallacies in some detail, he concludes:
We have absolutely no proof
god isn't an insect
rubbing her hind legs together to sing.
Or boring into us like a yellow jacket
into a fallen, overripe pear.
Or an assassin bug squatting over us,
shoving a proboscis right through
our breastplate then sipping.
How wonderful our poisons don't kill her.
(Selected Recent and New Errors). Yikes! That makes it hard to be chirpily sanguine, but it sure snaps the eyes open.