Dean Young published numerous collections of poetry, including Strike Anywhere (University Press of Colorado, 1995), winner of the Colorado Prize for Poetry; Skid (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002), finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Elegy on Toy Piano (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Primitive Mentor (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008), shortlisted for the International Griffin Poetry Prize; Bender: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2012); Shock by Shock (Copper Canyon Press, 2015); and Solar Perplexus (Copper Canyon Press, 2019). He has also written a book on poetics, The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction (Graywolf, 2010).
Young served as the 2014 Texas Poet Laureate and received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Stanford University, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. In 2007 he received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He taught at The Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, the Warren Wilson Low Residency Program, and the University of Texas-Austin, where he held the William Livingston Chair of Poetry.
We were deeply saddened to hear of Dean Young’s passing on August 23, 2022 at the age of 67 at his home in Cincinatti, Ohio. He has inspired a generation of writers with his high energy, copious invention, and bold imagination.
If the poet does not have the chutzpah to jeopardize habituated assumptions and practices, what will be produced will be sleep without dream, a copy of a copy of a copy.Dean Young, The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction, Graywolf Press
Dean Young is a high-energy poet of copious invention and bold imagination.
Dean Young is a high-energy poet of copious invention and bold imagination. His vigorous, vibrant, fast-paced poems make startling connections between highly improbable things as they take the measure of a world too variegated and complex to be fully comprehended, a ‘world so full/of detail yet so vague’. A Dean Young poem may set off from anywhere [‘I am not a flower./I am a chunk of meat/sprayed by the department store cosmetic technicians’] and may lead anywhere [‘My real mother burst into flame/smoking a Chesterfield in a paper shift’]. His zany wit and hyperactive surrealism are all the more compelling for their capacity to suddenly morph into an elegiac register, marked by piquant ruminations on evanescence, mortality and death. As entertaining as they are original, as resourceful as they are beguiling, Young’s mesmeric poems convey a uniquely accurate sense of life as it is experienced in the fraught and tumultuous circumstances of the globalised twenty-first century.
by Dean Young
Copyright © 2008, Dean Young, Primitive Mentor
Whenever I’m not drunk enough
is a waste of time.
I carry within me a hypnagogic dawn,
maybe the insulation gnawed by rats,
maybe I’ll never be back.
Ha ha to the mating swans.
Ha ha to the sepulchral golden slime
that shines and shines and shines.
This party started long before I arrived
with the last of wacko youthful chatter,
a curious crew, prone to slam-dance depression.
What’s the matter? Don’t know, maybe so
much hilarity is a strain on us or at least
we like to boast in loopy communiques
to those who’ve seen through us
and love us for what they see,
maybe some trees, a packing factory,
some secretive birdie hopping about
with a grasshopper in its mouth.
I don’t know what I’d do without you
although that’s how I spend most of my time.
It’d be unbearable otherwise,
like a vacation without sleeping pills,
without some creaking rain
abating the granite’s breakdown.
Such a paltry gesture, my surrender.
Copyright © 2008, Dean Young
When we look around for proof
of basic epistemological matters,
that life isn’t only seemings smattered,
a dream brought on by snaggled meat,
often the self blocks the view
of the tree or cat or car race
so all we find are me-leaves, me-meows,
me-machines of speedy impulse-me.
Maybe the point’s to see the self
as a kind of film that tints everything
bluer, more you-er and yet look through.
whatever you have to do, volunteer
at a shelter changing the abandoned
hamster’s litter, put together a coat drive
for the poor, go door to door for your candidate,
be devoted to a lover or lose yourself
cheering in a crowd, Go Hens! Go
higher, go lower, to see perhaps the sky
as a rock might, meditate until you become
a beam of light, be divided as a 3 by 27
and not get overcome by your identity ending
or expect to reappear after the decimal.
Perhaps you should be practicing not having
a self to claim, one day it’s baggage
we’re without, no longer waiting
for it to squirt out onto the conveyor belt
with all the others that look so much alike.
Yet it is sad to imagine no me around
to press his nose into your sleeping hair.
I worry death won’t care, just a bunch of dust
rushing up, some addled flashes, chills
then nil. I like too much that old idea
of heaven, everyone and pet you’ve lost
runs up which could not happen
if there’s no me there to greet.
Self, I’m stuck with you
but the notion of becoming unglued is too much
and brings tears that come, of course,
because you’re such a schmuck. Some days
you crash about raving how ignored you are
then why the hell don’t people let you alone
but I’ve seen you too perform small
nobilities, selfless generosities.
One way or the other, we’ll part I’m sure
and you’ll take me with you?
Copyright © 2008, Dean Young
- Poetry Foundation Profile
- In Memory of Dean Young (1955–2022) Copper Canyon Press
- Interview by Suzanne Parker Brookdale's Writer Series
- Interview by Anthony Tognazzini BOMBLOG