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Believer Books, $14 (paper)
Toward the end of Embryoyo, Dean Young writes that “Poetry is an art of beginnings and ends. You want middles, read novels. You want happy endings, read cookbooks.” Adding to Young’s oeuvre of zany, electric discontinuities, these cluttered, cacophonous, often delightful poems—which doff their hat to Kenneth Koch and Marianne Moore—ricochet like pinballs with their own eclectic brand of kinesis. They’re obsessed with metamorphosis, and as they unspool inside their own labyrinths, they are filled with “a sense of the fragility of all life / and the persistence of styrofoam.” Their dominant strategy is to gather specimens of lyric “ephemeroptera”—the title and subject of one poem—and arrange them, as he says later, “primarily by zigzags.” The result is an “ornery fritillary” of “hello-goodbye,” inexhaustible marginalia rattling at breakneck speed. Greeting parts of the world only to bid them farewell, these poems enact an unsettled dialogue with transience, which Young uses as an engine for event. Some of Young’s lines read like skewed koans: “From the practical point of view / the law of conservation of matter is a joke” (from “Paradise Poem”). Others deal in wordplay: “A cactus has less in common with static / than a thistle with a kestrel” (from “Bunny Tract”). Still others operate on skewed premises: “I’ll never drink tequila / until I can fly again.” And a few cut with the melancholy of what all this passing can add up to: “The puppy is gone and in its place a dog / then the dog is gone. Friendship / on a deadline, suntans, milk. / The daughter helps her mother up the stairs” (from “Deadline”). Regardless of their rhetorical pitch, these poems offer a biting homage to the shuffle and baffle of a time-lapse world.
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But I do miss the hymns, / the small, hard apples with their dimpled skin. I do miss / things.
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