Monday, June 27, 2011

Dean Young: The Art of Poetry

Poetry with words that sparkle and play and images that surprise is the kind of poetry that snags my attention. Sadly for me, I find it rarely. But a short review in the New York Times about a new book of poetry called Fall Higher by Dean Young caught me. When I went to order it I found that in addition to nine other books of poetry, Young had also written a book of prose called The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction. The online reviews reinforced my feeling that I needed to read this book as well.

The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and ContradictionWith 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).

Silence, 2010

The Art of Recklessness is part of "The Art of" series published by Graywolf Press. The other titles are:
I believe I have some more reading to do…

Photo by Sibila Savage


Linda said...

Hi Alisa...
I really enjoyed your latest blog entry on Dean Young. Gotta read more of him!

Did you see this NPR Morning Edition about him? You can hear him read some of his poetry.

Linda Race

Alisa said...

Thanks, Linda!
This is great--I hadn't seen it. It's interesting to compare the voice you hear in your head (voice on the page) with the actual voice in the air.