Dean Young

Poems by Dean Young


One Story

Delphiniums in a Window Box

  Dean Young

An inventive and vital voice in American letters, Dean Young first fell in love with poetry during his childhood in Pennsylvania, when in the third grade he "started writing and never stopped." After earning his MFA from Indiana University, Young went on to garner much recognition, receiving the Academy Award in Literature as well as a Stegner fellowships from the Stanford University. By now, he has published twelve books of poetry, most recently Fall Higher and Bender: New & Selected Poems, a vibrant distillation of a truly remarkable body of work. And received a slew prestigious accolades, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Pulitzer Prize nomination. Young has taught at the Warren Wilson MFA Program and was on the permanent faculty of the University of Iowa MFA, until 2008 when he became the William Livingston Professor of Poetry at the University of Texas. After years of teaching poetry, he wrote The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as an Assertive Force and Contradiction (2010), which he calls an "an amalgam of crticism and manifesto and pedagogy."

Young's poetry is nothing if not a marvelous conundrum. He has said that "to tie too close to meaning misses the point," and to read a poem by Dean Young is to overhear snippets of a playful and bizarre conversation at once implausible and undeniably true. His audacious leaps and juxtapositions and his extravagant imagry allow the reader to admire the truth in disconnected moments; to inhabit the world that exists between eye blinks. "If adventurous poetry can sometimes feel like a tenuous tightrope walk," wrote The Boston Globe, "Young's poems feel more like zip lines." Young has said that "poetry atrophies when it strays too far from the human pang," that the poet should attend to beauty of life's confusion, the connections that arise from disconnection itself. His work constantly reminds us that human experience is absurd, and that comedy and tragedy sometimes live in the same moment.

Over a decade ago, Young was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and by 2010 his heart was pumping at only 8% of capacity. His prospects looked very grim as his name sat on the list for a heart transplant. During the year of waiting, he wrote Fall Higher. This volume, as well as the rest of his poetry, is infused both with the awareness of mortality. To Young, the "signature characteristic" of poetry is the line, which, by nature, must end, as we do. But, as he says, "The human condition is pretty funny, tragic as it is. There's nothing funnier than being in a cardiologist's waiting room. It's hilarious."' In 2012, Young finally received the news he was hoping for, and a healthy heart. Re-invigorated by this second chance, there is no doubt that he will continue to remind us that art must never be less explosive than life itself.






Poetry Center Readings:
Spring 2014