Poet Dean Young on his new collection Bender and making vehicles to another world.
In graduate school I took a class with Dean Young that pretty much saved my life. Amid coursework that seemed to have little relevance to the life of an artist, Dean’s class was crucial business. The books he assigned (Lyn Hejinian’s My Life, for instance), his challenging prompts (write a poem that makes no sense whatsoever), and some of his aphoristic classroom remarks (“The most vibrant forms are emergent forms”) still resonate with me today.
In a weird process of backwards detective work, I began reading Dean’s poetry to reaffirm a set of values I had but wanted more of. I understood immediately that I’d found a flexible skeleton key.
To read a Dean Young poem is to move quickly. The reader’s mind shoots through it like the steel ball in a pinball machine, dinging around, racking up points. Dean’s poems are amazingly fun; they’re stuffed with high-flown hilarity and a sorcerer’s orchestration of wild energy. Even better, they open to reveal a center that’s gorgeous and morally evolved. They’re practically advertisements for the best human causes: liberation, love, and the need to live life knowing its fragility and worth.
Dean Young There’s a goose honking somewhere around here.
Anthony Tognazzini That’s because the interview’s about to start. How are you feeling these days?
DY Alive, happy, and trying to get my writing legs under me after the blender I’ve been through. Since my transplant I’ve been listening to a lot of vintage Yes as a way of calling me back to myself. After all these years I’ve finally figured out how to hear “Soundchaser,” one of their most insane songs.