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Dean Young

1955–

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 Solar Perplexus, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2019; Shock by Shock (Copper Canyon Press, 2015); 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 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Skid (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002), a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Prize; First Course in Turbulence (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999); Strike Anywhere (University Press of Colorado, 1995), which won the Colorado Poetry Prize; Beloved Infidel (Wesleyan University Press, 1992); and Design with X (Wesleyan University Press, 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.


Selected Bibliography

Solar Perplexus (Copper Canyon Press, 2019)
Shock by Shock (Copper Canyon Press, 2015)
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 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005)
Skid (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002)
First Course in Turbulence (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999)
Strike Anywhere (University Press of Colorado, 1995)
Beloved Infidel (Wesleyan University Press, 1992)
Design with X (Wesleyan University Press, 1988)

Dean Young
Photo credit: Laurie Saurborn Young

By This Poet

8

This Living Hand [excerpt]

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 Karl instead of Zeppo Marx
in utero, things would have turned out
differently. Instead, my mother
went right on eating lobster.
But where were we? . . . 

Thrown as if Fierce & Wild

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.

Ash Ode

When I saw you ahead I ran two blocks
shouting your name then realizing it wasn’t
you but some alarmed pretender, I went on
running, shouting now into the sky,
continuing your fame and luster. Since I've
been incinerated, I've oft returned to this thought,
that all things loved are pursued and never caught,
even as you slept beside me you were flying off.
At least what's never had can’t be lost, the sieve
of self stuck with just some larger chunks, jawbone,
wedding ring, a single repeated dream,
a lullaby in every elegy, descriptions
of the sea written in the desert, your broken
umbrella, me claiming I could fix it.

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