With his prose, Young speeds up and slows down, depending on word size and sentence length, target and topic. He provides a walk in a garden with poetic images around a low wall here, a mirrored philosophical lake there. He presents statues from the art canon as well as from the literary one. He booms and rattles at perfect moments. Occasionally, I got detained by some of the jargon and a few times I got lost, but I revived, seduced by a game of word play. He cites some of my favorites: Duchamp, Gertrude Stein, Dada, Surrealism, the Oulipians. By this list, as you might imagine, he shows his love for chance collisions between words, "YOUR GENIUS IS YOUR ERROR" (48), the kind that happen when mis-hearing someone ("death" for "depth" is one example), or when you mis-copy someone else's words or you joyfully read a mistranslation. He would have liked the sign in Japan that began: "In the vent of an emergency…"
Poetry "is and needs to be a messy process, a devotion to unpredictability, the papers blowing around the room as the wind comes in" (5). The book is not meant as a how-to since he does not believe in templates and guidelines and rules. "We are here to cultivate the marvelous, to woo the new from yourselves, to commune with otherness" (88). It functions as an exploration of creative process and of irreverence. He suggests the kinds of sparks we need to create living art and how we might create art that rouses us and others from deathly sleep/complacent sheep. What we need to be thinking about, what attitudes we need to consider to rev ourselves and our imaginations. What we need to push against. The book is not meant to pin it all down but to explode everything you think you know and inspire you to run after the pieces. "The heart isn't grown on a grid" (79, 87).
The Art of Recklessness is part of "The Art of" series published by Graywolf Press. The other titles are:
- The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot by Charles Baxter
- The Art of Time in Memoir: Then, Again by Sven Birkerts
- The Art of the Ending by Amy Bloom
- The Art of Description: World into Word by Mark Doty
- The Art of the Poetic Line by James Longenbach
- The Art of Attention: A Poet's Eye by Donald Revell
- The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long As It Takes by Joan Silber
- The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song by Ellen Bryant Voigt
I believe I have some more reading to do…
Photo by Sibila Savage