Tony Hoagland on Dean Young
Dean Young is the contemporary avatar of avant-garde populism in American poetry. His poems are jazzy, imagistic, ironic, romantic, humorous, surrealist-inflected, and accessible. They gratify the expectations of both art and of entertainment. Without dumbing-down for his audience, his allegiances to pop culture, his anti-intellectual asides, and his slangy Americanski patter serve to hold his poems in the gravity field of the general reader. Though influences are certainly visible in Young's work (New York School poets, French Surrealism, John Ashbery, etc.), he has refined and honed a poetic mode and texture distinctly his own. Young's own aesthetic influence among young poets is widespread, and––though he is not the only model for the style de jour––his work brings into focus certain values and habits of our poetry era––speed, dissemblement, parody, romantic irony. His own work also highlights, by contrast, some of the shortcomings of his emulators.
-Tony Hoagland, "The Dean Young Effect," in The American Poetry Review (July/August, 2009). p. 29.
I like Dean Young's work a great deal. At his best, he's a wonderful poet. I recall, in particular, a poem about Walt Whitman's brain that appeared some years ago in The Threepenny Review that I carried around with me for months, I liked it so well. But there are times when he strains so for effect and affect that I find his work falling flat.
Perhaps what he is attempting is sufficiently difficult that we should not be too critical when he's unable to keep all the juggling pins in the air at one time.
Tony Hoagland (top photo)
Dean Young (bottom photo)