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About this poet

On July 18, 1955, Dean Young was born in Columbia, Pennsylvania. He received his MFA in creative writing from Indiana University.

His books of poems include Bender: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2012); Primitive Mentor (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008); Embryoyo (McSweeney's, 2007); Ready-Made Bouquet (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005); Elegy on Toy Piano (2005), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Skid (2002), a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Prize; First Course in Turbulence (1999); Strike Anywhere (University Press of Colorado, 1995), which won the Colorado Poetry Prize; Beloved Infidel (Wesleyan, 1992); and Design with X (1988). He is also the author of The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction (Graywolf Press, 2010), a book of prose about poetry.

Largely influenced by the New York School of poets, Young combines aspects of experimentation and surrealism. About Young, the poet Charles Simic has said, "Although his work comes out of the poetries of Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery and Frank O'Hara and James Tate, Young has his own voice. The language, the invention, the imagination and the sheer fun of his poems is astounding. It's not all dazzle either. The poems are also moving. This man reminds us that there is nothing more serious than a joke."

Young has received a Stegner fellowship from Stanford University, as well as fellowhips from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Young's awards also include an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His poems have appeared seven times in The Best American Poetry series.

Young has taught at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, in the low-residency MFA program at Warren Wilson College, and at Loyola University, in Chicago. He is currently the William Livingston Chair of Poetry at the University of Texas, in Austin. In 2014, he was appointed the state poet laureate of Texas.


Selected Bibliography

Primitive Mentor (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008)
Embryoyo (McSweeney's, 2007)
Ready-Made Bouquet (2005)
Elegy on Toy Piano (2005)
Skid (2002)
First Course in Turbulence (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999)
Strike Anywhere (University Press of Colorado, 1995)
Beloved Infidel (1992)
Design with X (Wesleyan, 1988)

Thrown as if Fierce & Wild

Dean Young, 1955
You don’t have a clue, says the power drill
to the canoe hanging from the rafters.
Is life a contest everything plays
by different rules for different prizes?
You’re really worthless, aren’t you?
barks the cherry tree covered with eponymous
fruit to the wagon lying on its side.
Unfair! Wasn’t that wagon not two days ago
leading the parade, the puppy refusing
to wear her hat? Can’t you just leave me
alone? says the big picture of Marilyn
Monroe behind her nonreflective glass.
Is the universe infinity in ruckus
and wrack? The third grader loose
in dishwares, the geo-tech
weeping on the beach. Mine, mine,
says the squirrel to the transformer,
unclear on the capacities of electricity.
String of Christmas lights tangled with
extension cords, can’t you work things out?
The young couple takes a step toward the altar,
increasing the magnetic force that sends
ex-lovers whirling off into nether nebulae
but attracting mothers-in-law. In one wing,
the oxygen mask taken from the famous writer
of terza rema glee while in another
an infant arrives, loudly disappointed
to have to do everything now himself,
no longer able to breathe under water.
Will we never see our dead friends again?
A motorcycle roars on the terrible screw
of the parking structure, lava
heaves itself into the frigid strait.

From Elegy on Toy Piano, by Dean Young, © 2005. Reprinted with permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

From Elegy on Toy Piano, by Dean Young, © 2005. Reprinted with permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Dean Young

Dean Young

Largely influenced by the New York School of poets, Dean Young combines aspects of experimentation and surrealism in his poems.

by this poet

poem
It's not only the word roses
lurking inside neurosis or the fact
that most of my formal education
occurred in the midwest, so too
my summer job inhaling industrial
reactants should be considered.
It's an unstable world, babe.
Always an inner avalanche
as they say in receiving.
I'm sure if I'd gotten a shot
of
poem

The wolf appointed to tear me apart
is sure making slow work of it.
This morning just one eye weeping,
a single chip out of my back and
the usual maniacal wooden bird flutes
in the brain. Listen to that feeble howl
like having fangs is something to regret,
like we shouldn’t give

poem
Everything is brushed away, off the sleeve,
off the overcoat, huge ensembles of assertions
just jars of buttons spilled, recurring
nightmare of straw on fire, you the scarecrow,
the scare, the crow, totems gone, rubies
flawed, flamingo in hyena’s jaws, noble
and lascivious mouth of the gods hovering
then gone,