Saturday, May 17, 2008

Dean Young and the UK Lottery

A week or so back I was sent an email from a person wanting me to try a product and write about it on my blog. Money was offered. Can such a thing be possible? And then I found out I won several UK lotteries. And then a few someones with cancer or some other terminal and not funny problem scoped me out as a dependable person to hold onto their several million dollars if only I’d send them some money first, and my home address.

And then I was trying to write a bunch of poems, and was irritated to find that the opening line of one of them, and something of its propulsion was similar to a Dean Young poem that just came out in APR. Have you seen it yet? A graduation poem. A commencement address. Well, I’d type it our for you here, but I left it across town, and why should I anyway? It’s by Dean Young. Pretty soon you’ll find it on the side of a box of cereal or something.

Beyond that, there’s a value to Dean Young’s method that’s important to hear outside of the huge influence he’s asserting over a generation of poets. Save us from ourselves, we cry, but it’s difficult not to be swayed. Save us from that influence, we say, more specifically, so that every time now someone writes with short assertive sentences and a slightly wandering attention and antic mood, we have to think of Dean Young. So that not every sunrise says Dean Young. Or maybe every sunrise really is saying John Ashbery, and Dean Young is just up on a ladder with a spray paint can. Who knows? Or is it Frank O’Hara? Or was it Scarlet? And what’s Lorca doing there in the watermelons?

Here’s one of his poems from a few years ago:

Original Monkey

I’m working on my vanishing point.
I’m practicing my zenith.
I used to rely on a piece of glass
to plunge into my heart but that’s nothing
compared to my monkey. Usually
we meet on a bench by the whortleberries
to weep and watch the lambs disappear
into the chasm. Hey, it’s a rotten world
for a monkey too. Just because
you’ve got opposable thumbs
doesn’t mean you can untrip the trap.
My monkey though is very self-involved
so when the glass doesn’t work
and the invisible girders are groaning
and I can’t get back to the old country
of the great works of Western art
restored to the luminosity of Looney Tunes,
I call my friend who’s drunk again
like me like me and my moonbeam.
Wrong answer. Wrong ballistics report.
Wrong club membership. Wrong draconian
countermeasure. Wrong emergency room
where the client in the party hat
blinking blood says, It’s nothing,
it’s nothing. I’ll be the judge of that.
We can see that once the work of interpretation
is done, the dream is the fulfillment of a wish
just as the injury is the fulfillment of a wish
and vibrating at the speed of E flat
and unloading heads into the furnace
and realism which is a form of surrealism
on a time-delayed fuse so what I’d like to know
is who’s making all these helpful wishes?
My agony is no sillier than yours
even if it’s riding a tiny unicycle.
All I’m asking for is a fellow monkey
to accompany my original monkey
in his bridal sadness. Once he was one
among many in a tree. Once my piece of glass
was part of a larger piece of glass
which was part of a larger piece of glass
which was . . . okay, you get the point.
As if back there somewhere
was something immense and intact.


At 5/17/2008 10:13 PM, Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

I haven't read it yet, but this makes me supremely glad that my commencement address poem was published first, and that it's not really in the Dean Young style (or at least it doesn't have the short declarative sentences and the overall sprawl). I always see Goldbarth in Dean Young. And like both.

At 5/18/2008 6:43 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

He mentions love and hope. Do you mention love and hope?


I had both in there, but took the hope out after coming across his poem.

Now it's hopeless.

At 5/23/2008 9:34 PM, Blogger jeannine said...

Wasn't someone writing in their blog about "ultra-talk" poetry lately? Isn't that Dean Young's thing? If not, why not? Discuss :)

At 6/04/2008 8:24 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


I missed the Ultra-panel at AWP, which I remember had David Kirby and Mark Halliday listed. I'm sure Dean Young is on that list as well? I believe there's an anthology or somesuch brewing or out?

Something like that?

At 10/29/2009 3:21 PM, Anonymous Monica said...

Do you have a link to the commencement speech? I would like to see that.

and you won a uk lottery? haha awesome.


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