We know Dean as the surrealist, associative master of the wacky and wild. We know him as the great example of the art of recklessness. We know him as the poet with the new heart. But reading this book reminds me of what is so simply evident in Dean’s best poems (in books such as Strike Anywhere and First Course in Turbulence): Dean Young knows poetry.
In this book, his musicality has been turned up. At first, I was like WOAH WHAT, but rereading these poems, it just shines through that this dude knows what he is doing, again and again.
VIDEO READING OF MADRIGAL
AHHH GEESH the video cut off the last two lines. WHY I DONT KNOW. I wanna finish this post and sleep, so here are the lines, read them to yourself in my voice or someting: while the next set of fools scampers into the puzzle garden/detonating with laughter.
The steady rhythm and rhyme scheme at the beginning, the parts with too many rhymes or syllables, and the choppiness at the end all mark for me the brilliance of what Dean is doing in this book. Like the subject matter dealing with loss, he starts with the sturdy and steady, before loosening up, breaking down.
Not to be a butthead in the middle of a review, but: ANYBODY ELSE REAL DISAPPOINTED WITH THIS INTERVIEW WITH DEAN AT THE RUMPUS RECENTLY? The majority of the questions seemed goofy or disconnected or broad to the point of being empty.
Often, music to me hides the meat of the poem or even makes it seem like something is there when it’s just a pop song. This book uses the music to sing a beautiful chant of blistering bitterness, strong contemplation, and yeah-yeah-yearning
Yeah, the typical Dean stuff is there, but the poems where he expounds on those old ways, using a tightened sense of music, a calmer sense of association, is where this book reaches into the fresh, the new, the bold. Take the last poem, “Teetering Lullaby.” Dean pushes here where he normally would pull, giving to the “you” this beautiful lullaby. Take the middle stanzas:
adumbrations of bees may never
cease, not the hopeful hum
or peevish sting but rest I would
my hand upon your breast, sleep I would
above the troposphere. No accounting
for your beauty moving through me
like a branch, a sigh coming from under
the squeaky remnants of the old barn.
Though more refined, these types of poems do not strike me as watered down or passive. Rather, they are bold in their clarity, their sense of self. Yes, we know Dean can rattle through a page and a half of associative energy that breaks bones and hearts alike, but that only makes this resolve so beautiful, so impressive. To end the book with such a feat of a slow exhale reminds us that this type of writing, this type of thinking, this type of living is harder than it seems.