An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
4b Tremayne Close
UK ISBN 1 900152 99 1

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This page last updated: 11th December 2007.

	And being born  what a trauma that was!
	I can recall not a moment
	but death, the end of appearance,
	is definitely getting cylindrical
	like one of those rods in nuclear power plants.
	I don't think I'll turn into a bird.
	Not yet.

Feeling jaded? Fed up with reading technically competent, but ultimately dull poems? Then try a dose of Dean Young's READY-MADE BOUQUET. Young takes us at breakneck speed into both the metaphysical craziness of the universe and the wonderful silliness of everyday life. Often the two are indistinguishable. Young celebrates the absurd with infectious exuberance as in NOT IN ANY HA HA WAY:

	I went to the grocery store
	and pressed my ear against the butter
	and it cried out and I pressed my ear
	against the paper towels and they cried out
	but of what I cannot tell. All was
	as one jellied equation that ended
	with the symbol for oblivion although
	it could have been a mistake,
	something half-erased.
Of course, there is a darker side to all this. We are reminded continually of the transience of our identity in a shifting universe. Cruelty and suffering are part of the way we go about our business. From the same poem:
	...You are not the first
	to ask me to describe this darkness,
	it is the job I've never wanted but
	am always overqualified for, being
	too zealous and confused just as scientists,
	after introducing electrodes into the monkeys'
	diencephalons, still don't know if life
	is suffering therefore beautiful or
	life is beautiful therefore we must suffer.
Young has something in common with pre-WW II Surrealists. I was reminded especially of the British poet, Philip O'Connor, the author of hilarious, yet lyrical poems, such as CAPTAIN BUSBY. And it goes without saying that he works in the tradition created by the original New York school of poets. Everything, no matter how seemingly trivial or irrelevant, is grist for Young's poetic mill. Colloquisms are embraced. From ACTION FIGURING:
	Maybe this is a guy thing but I find
	pizza almost completely sustaining [...]
	In the last three days, I have rented 8 videos,
	have seen explode: helicopters, satellites,
	a bridge, flesh-eating puppets, heads,
	hands, the White House, unclassifiable
	weaponry, flora and fauna of distant worlds
	and still within me some fuse burns on.
	Love is not everything yet without it
	one explosion is much like any other.
What I also like about Young's work is it's honesty and insightfulness, all delivered in his usual uproarious style. From SUNFLOWER, which is a kind of self-portrait:
	He can't resign himself to losing the patent
	on masturbation. On the other side
	of the back of his head hangs his face
	which he puts strawberries into.
	He dreads strawberries because their mouth
	is bigger than his. He dreads his wife
	because he loves her. His strong opinions
	re. capital punishment, arts education,
	the numen dissolve in water,
	the universal solvent that falls from clouds,
	clouds that were HIS idea.
I have quoted Young at some length. Without doing so, it is difficult to show how his poetry works by adding image to image to continually surprise and puncture our expectations. No one would normally think in this way, and yet Young, through his superb imagination and lyrical gifts, has the power to make us believe him. The images, though often absurd, seem inevitable and real.

Perhaps the main weakness of Young's poetry is that its very unpredictability can become predictable. If you try to digest too much in one sitting, it can start to read like formulaic writing. It would be good to see Young develop in new directions, in the way, that, say Ashbery did in the 60s and 70s.

Another weakness is that occasionally the images, at least for me, simply do not work. He stretches credibility too far in HE SAID TURN HERE:

	and once when his kitchen was on fire in Maine
	and he was asleep, the lake came and bit his hand
However hard I try, I just cannot see a lake biting a hand. In most of the poems, I believe him, but here I don't.

Yet all in all, Dean Young's poetry is impossible to resist. This beautifully produced book from Stride is well worth its price.

To let Young have the last word, I'll leave you with these lines from WIND OFF A RIVER:

	Let us be clear about how little time is left,
	what the avalanche requires of us.
	Being drawn into the mouth of some eight-legged thing is quiet.
	The center of the sun is quiet.
	The last year of my friend's marriage,
	although one of them didn't know it [...]
	The paws of our great source
	touch us in our sleep.

reviewer: Ian Seed.