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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

Primitive Mentor

University of Pittsburgh Press
2009 Shortlist
United States

Judges’ Citation

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.


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