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Dean Young has published eight previous books, most recently elegy on toy piano, which was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Embryoyo. His collection Skid was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Prize. Young has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2007 he received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He teaches at The Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa and in the Warren Wilson Low Residency Program. Dean Young divides his time between Berkeley, California, and Iowa City, Iowa, residing with his wife, the novelist Cornelia Nixon.

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.