poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

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 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)

Unknown Ode

Historically, the unknown was used
to staunch battlefield wounds.
Now there’s a spray. The unknown
assumes too much, objects Annabell
trying to break up with herself,
like anyone’s here is the first place.
There are rules about touching
someone else’s unknown no one’s
learning in grade school anymore.
Here’s one now.
Boiling point unknown,
cleave disposition, event horizon,
its animal origami unknown
so stop poking.
I thought the idea was not
to have our brains sucked out
by a giant radioactive leech
or an English department
or is that just me? After
the third surgery, I don’t scare
so easily but who isn’t jumpy
as an astronaut recollecting
crash-landing spontaneously
in the Sea of Tranquility,
O2 running out?
The news from the moon isn’t good.
The news from the elephants worse.
Centuries ago, a little girl could
watch a funny bird kicking leaves
until the hand of god came out
and she became Emily Dickinson
and the universe milkweed
as the quantum predicts.
A lot harder now.
It’s all paved over.
God’s institutionalized, murderous.
Most of the universe won’t show up
and it messes with you
so you invent fish blowing tubas,
yo-yoing angels to flesh things out.
Layer after layer of shellac.
Screws in pianos.
Fingerprints in snowflakes.
First you have to love death
says Eluard like it’s not
his black raincoat saying it,
like anything his raincoat says
isn’t stolen from the rain which
everyone knows around here
never touches the ground.

© Copyright 2018 by Dean Young. Used with the permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Quarterly West Issue 93.

© Copyright 2018 by Dean Young. Used with the permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Quarterly West Issue 93.

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
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,
poem
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
poem
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