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About this poet

Monica Youn grew up in Houston, Texas. She received a BA from Princeton University, a JD from Yale Law School, and an MPhil from the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.

Youn is the author of Blackacre (Graywolf Press, 2016), a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award in poetry; Ignatz (Four Way Books, 2010), a finalist for the 2010 National Book Award; and Barter (Graywolf Press, 2003).

Of Blackacre, Stanley Fish writes, “In Monica Youn’s remarkable series of poems, words and objects are alike subjected to a probing intelligence that is at once philosophical and psychological. The precision of observation at every level is almost overwhelming.”

Youn has received poetry fellowships from the Library of Congress, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Stanford University. She is also known for her work as a lawyer specializing in election law. She has previously taught at Bennington College, Columbia University, and Warren Wilson College, among others. She currently teaches at Princeton University and lives in New York City.


Bibliography

Blackacre (Graywolf Press, 2016)
Ignatz (Four Way Books, 2010)
Barter (Graywolf Press, 2003)

Stealing The Scream

It was hardly a high-tech operation, stealing The Scream.
That we know for certain, and what was left behind--
a store-bought ladder, a broken window,
and fifty-one seconds of videotape, abstract as an overture.

And the rest? We don't know. But we can envision
moonlight coming in through the broken window,
casting a bright shape over everything--the paintings,
the floor tiles, the velvet ropes: a single, sharp-edged pattern;

the figure's fixed hysteria rendered suddenly ironic
by the fact of something happening; houses
clapping a thousand shingle hands to shocked cheeks
along the road from Oslo to Asgardstrand;

the guards rushing in--too late!--greeted only
by the gap-toothed smirk of the museum walls;
and dangling from the picture wire like a baited hook,
a postcard: "Thanks for the poor security."

The policemen, lost as tourists, stand whispering
in the galleries: ". . .but what does it all mean?"
Someone has the answers, someone who, grasping the frame,
saw his sun-red face reflected in that familiar boiling sky.

From Barter by Monica Youn, published by Graywolf Press, May 2003. Copyright © 2003 by Monica Youn. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.

From Barter by Monica Youn, published by Graywolf Press, May 2003. Copyright © 2003 by Monica Youn. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.

Monica Youn

Monica Youn

Monica Youn is the author of Blackacre (Graywolf Press, 2016). She teaches at Princeton University and lives in New York City.

by this poet

poem

                     Lamentation (Martha Graham, 1930)

                     What shall I compare to you, that I may comfort                                 you, virgin daughter of Zion? Lamentations 2:13

 

Wordless, ceaseless,
a second, seamless skin,
this blue refrain

2
poem

To section off
is to intensify,

to deaden.
Some surfaces

cannot be salvaged.
Leave them

to lose function,
to persist only

as armature,
holding in place

those radiant
squares

of sensation—
the body a dichotomy

poem
When you have left me
the sky drains of color

like the skin
of a tightening fist.

The sun commences
its gold prowl

batting at tinsel streamers
on the electric fan.

Crouching I hide
in the coolness I stole

from the brass rods 
of your bed.