I wish I could vote for poet laureate. I’d vote for Dean Young.
It’s clear cut for me. He’s simply the only living poet who truly gives voice to the tragic and ridiculous and tender and doomed existential meaning of life through his whimsical, searching verse. When I read one of his poems, I never know where it’s going from word to word. I know I’m going to be surprised, but I don’t know how I’m going to be surprised. It’s likely that I’ll laugh, but it’s equally likely that I’ll laugh and cry, or something else.
I’m not going to write an essay on Dean’s poetry (I previously wrote a ditty on his book Skid). He’ll never be voted poet laureate because he’s a bit too dangerous, a bit too wild and unpredictable. Poet laureates need to clearly edifying in some ways–they need to serve, after all–and I doubt that Dean Young is clearly edifying to most, although he is to me.
I just wanted to pull out a couple of quotes from a recent interview with him in fail better, a mag I love, and one that’s a natural for him if only because his latest collection is titled Fall Higher. If you’re going to describe Dean’s poetry in two words, “fall higher” might be the best two words.
For one, he not only honors imperfections, he seeks them out. Dean says, “I certainly don’t believe in the making of art as a pursuit of perfection, rather the exploration of errors and stumbles, smudges and yelps.”
When I read that quote, I think of Cassavetes’ films, except with a few wiffle balls of Dada tossed in. He says that “art may be made carefully but it’s never made by the careful.” That’s such good advice these days when so many artists have become more attuned to the selling of their art than to the recklessly inclined soul behind its creation.
Dean’s interview appeared in fail better after he received a heart transplant earlier this year. It will be interesting to see how such an ordeal will affect his work. He’s faced death. He’s been given life. His words already traced indeterminacy, yet they were full of a gleeful plunging, a death-defying, exuberant vigor.
“I’m still searching and messing about, making wild forays I hope,” he says. “Time is always running out for everyone although I’ll admit everyone doesn’t have such huge scars. But one thing’s for sure. I don’t only want to write from the prospective of those scars.”
Even if he writes of his scars, I’m sure there will be a smirk, a “yippeee,” an unexpected observation, someone dancing, a roller coaster, a worm, a lizard, a clown, a bordello, an astronaut, and more.
Debbie Ridpath Ohi says
Thanks for this inspiring post, Grant. And congrats on your appointment as OLL’s Executive Director!
Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Grant Faulkner says
Thanks so much, Debbie! Can’t wait to start. “Failing better” can often lead to success! Thanks again.