poem index

About this poet

In 1936, David Young was born in Davenport, Iowa. He earned a BA from Carleton College, and an MA and PhD from Yale University.

He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Field of Light and Shadow (Knopf, 2010); Black Lab (2006); At the White Window (2000); Night Thoughts and Henry Vaughan (1994), which won the Ohio State University Press/The Journal Award in Poetry; The Planet on the Desk: Selected and New Poems 1960-1990 (1991); Foraging (1986); Earthshine (1988); The Names of a Hare in English (1979); Work Lights: Thirty-Two Prose Poems (1977); and Boxcars (1972).

His first collection, Sweating Out the Winter (1969), was selected by William Stafford, Isabella Gardner, and Stanley Kunitz for the United States Award of the International Poetry Forum.

Young has also published numerous volumes of translation, including Out on the Autumn River: Selected Poems by Du Mu (2006) and Clouds Float North: The Complete Poems of Yu Xuanji (1998), both with Jiann I. Lin; Selected Poems by Eugenio Montale (2004), with Charles Wright and Jonathan Galassi); The Poetry of Petrarch (2004); The Book of Fresh Beginnings: Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke (1994), Miroslav Holub's Vanishing Lung Syndrome and The Dimension of the Present Moment (both 1990), Five T'ang Poets (1990), Pablo Neruda's The Heights of Macchu Picchu (1987), and Rilke's Duino Elegies (1980).

He has edited several anthologies, most recently Models of the Universe: An Anthology of the Prose Poem (with Stuart Friebert, 1995), and has published several volumes of criticism and prose, including Six Modernist Moments in Poetry (2006), The Action to the Word: Structure and Style in Shakespearean Tragedy (1990) and Seasoning: A Poet's Year, With Seasonal Recipes (1999). For the latter, and for his general accomplishments as a poet, he was awarded the Cleveland Arts Prize.

About Young's poetry, the poet Stanley Plumly wrote, "In keeping with the whole heart of all his work, David Young’s Black Lab draws from a variety of sources—a fellowship of poets, an intimacy of landscape, a celebration of the elegy—yet comes, in each of the poems, to a single, and singular, place of rest, calm, and clarity. There is a quality of beatitude, an elevation of the quotidian, a defining of value here. This is a book to carry, to rejoice in on those dark days."

His honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Ohio Arts Council. He has been the recipient of a Pushcart Prize as well as a Witter Bynner Translation Fellowship.

Young has been Longman Professor of English at Oberlin College since 1986 and an editor of FIELD magazine since 1969. He lives in Oberlin, Ohio.

Poem for Adlai Stevenson and Yellow Jackets

David Young
It's summer, 1956, in Maine, a camp resort 
on Belgrade Lakes, and I am cleaning fish, 
part of my job, along with luggage, firewood, 
Sunday ice cream, waking everyone 
by jogging around the island every morning 
swinging a rattle I hold in front of me 
to break the nightly spider threads. 
Adlai Stevenson is being nominated, 
but won't, again, beat Eisenhower, 
sad fact I'm half aware of, steeped as I am 
in Russian novels, bathing in the tea-
brown lake, startling a deer and chasing it by canoe 
as it swims from the island to the mainland. 
I'm good at cleaning fish: lake trout, 
those beautiful deep swimmers, brown trout, 
I can fillet them and take them to the cook 
and the grateful fisherman may send a piece 
back from his table to mine, a salute. 
I clean in a swarm of yellow jackets, 
sure they won't sting me, so they don't, 
though they can't resist the fish, the slime, 
the guts that drop into the bucket, they're mad 
for meat, fresh death, they swarm around 
whenever I work at this outdoor sink 
with somebody's loving catch.
Later this summer we'll find their nest 
and burn it one night with a blowtorch 
applied to the entrance, the paper hotel 
glowing with fire and smoke like a lantern,
full of the death-bees, hornets, whatever they are, 
that drop like little coals
and an oily smoke that rolls through the trees 
into the night of the last American summer 
next to this one, 36 years away, to show me 
time is a pomegranate, many-chambered, 
nothing like what I thought.

From At the White Window by David Young, published by the Ohio State University Press. Copyright © 2000 by David Young. Used by permission of the Ohio State University Press. All rights reserved.

David Young

David Young

Born in 1936, David Young is the author of several collection of poetry and numerous volumes of translation

by this poet

poem
You'll show that toad-eater who wrote Night Thoughts 
what's happened in two centuries or so.

You'll make your yard the spirit's doorway 
to metamorphs and comet-lit inventions.

Go ahead, walk the cathedral-volumned night. 
Let Perseids stripe your eyes.


                    *

					
I read the other
poem
        —for my children

I see her doing something simple, paying bills,
or leafing through a magazine or book,
and wish that I could say, and she could hear,

that now I start to understand her love
for all of us, the fullness of it.

It burns there in the past, beyond my reach,
a modest lamp.