Bender: New and Selected Poems

Dean Young. Copper Canyon (Consortium, dist.), $26 (290p) ISBN 978-1-55659-403-8
After 10 books over 20-odd years, Young (Fall Higher) has become one of our most imitated poets: his jocular jumps from topic to topic, debts to Surrealist dream-logic, mixture of postmodern oddity, stand-up comedy and weighty pathos land his work somewhere between John Ashbery (to whom Young owes much) and Billy Collins (whose affability Young shares). This big first retrospective establishes Young’s limits along with his strengths: poems that accrete one-liners for comic wisdom (“How goofy and horrible is life”) sit beside extended anecdotes in older modes, like “Three Weeks Late” (about a potential pregnancy). Young received a heart transplant in 2011, and it’s easy to spot his mortality: “Here is a semitransparent pebble I picked up/ on the way to my EKG.” Young reprints poems in alphabetical order by title, making it impossible for readers to know which are old or new, as if he meant to disguise any development. The poems can go anywhere, from anywhere, almost too easily—detractors find it hard to tell them apart: “What about Beethoven’s/ deafness, cunnilingus, what is the best way/ to cook fish?” Random comedy rules; yet sadness is never far off—even his weirdest lines can pivot to sum up the human condition. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/25/2012
Release date: 10/01/2012
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Ebook - 301 pages - 978-1-61932-035-2
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