Get our latest essays, archival selections, reading lists, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
by Dean Young
Copper Canyon Press, $22 (cloth)
After more than a dozen books, Dean Young has become the spokesperson for a certain kind of poetic abandon. He embraces this position in his latest collection, Fall Higher. The book begins with a bit of advice: “hark, dumbass, // the error is not to fall / but to fall from no height.” This statement served as a subheading in The Art of Recklessness, Young’s 2010 book of prose, and Fall Higher echoes much of that book, both in spirit and language. How risky, reckless, unforgettable, or frivolous you find the epigraph may predict your opinion of Fall Higher: the mash-up of the archaic and colloquial, use of direct address, and unexpected pithiness and emotion provide a fair sense of Young’s method. The book is also marked by an interest in poetic form, which, in typical Young fashion, means a self-conscious subversion of form, as in such poems as “Fucked-Up Ode” or in the deliberately (one hopes) awkward couplets of “Madrigal”: “Worse than a job chicken-processing, / worse than a courtroom of the deaf addressing, / like trying on a shirt with the pins still in it / listen to the heart you’ll soon regret it.” Young seems determined as ever to cram each poem with stuff—a single page, for example, yields mousetraps, DJ equipment, texts, raw cookie dough, and “morning doves.” Such accrual can prove distracting, but it also gives shape to Young’s desire to imbue our ephemera with significance, or at least acknowledgment, before we leave it forever: “We have to go soon, don’t we,” he writes, adding, “I want to touch everything to be sure.”
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.
Reflecting on three monumental works of modernism—James Joyce’s Ulysses, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus—a hundred years on.
Both regulators and employers have embraced new technologies for on-the-job monitoring, turning a blind eye to unjust working conditions.
But I do miss the hymns, / the small, hard apples with their dimpled skin. I do miss / things.