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Dean Young_edited_edited_edited.jpg


Poet / Educator

Born: 18 July 1955, Columbia, Pennsylvania USA

Died: 23 August 2022, Cincinnati, Ohio USA

Dean Young published numerous books of poetry and poetic theory, including Strike Anywhere (University Press of Colorado, 1995), winner of the Colorado Prize for Poetry; Elegy on Toy Piano (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Bender: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2012); and Solar Perplexus (Copper Canyon Press, 2019). He is also the author of the book on poetics, The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction (Graywolf Press, 2010).

Young was born in 1955 in Columbia, Pennsylvania. He earned his MFA from Indiana University. He served as the 2014 Texas Poet Laureate and has received multiple fellowships, including the National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship, the Stegner Fellowship, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. He taught for many years at the University of Texas at Austin, where he held the William Livingston Chair of Poetry.

Young was known for his linguistic agility and off-kilter humor, and he had an enormous influence on contemporary poetry. Publishers Weekly has called him “one of our most imitated poets.” The Boston Globe has noted that Young “always stood out for his sharp humor, boundless poetic energy, and sheer readability.” The Los Angeles Times has found Young’s books to read “like a long, breathless thank-you for life’s seemingly random jumble of beauty, strangeness, tenderness, and joy.” The New York Times has described his work as “a thicket of irresistible first lines. . . . Young knows that to be truly reverent, the poet needs to be irreverent,” and that, “for all his humor and linguistic jazz, Mr. Young doesn’t shun the big questions.” And Kevin Young, on NPR, noted of Bender that it is “a book of survival and strength, of seeing even in the smallest things the heights of what we can be. That’s as good a definition of contemporary poetry as any.”

Young’s iconic style derived from the New York School of Poetry and from art movements like Surrealism and Dadaism. He was often placed in company with poets such as John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, Tony Hoagland, and Tomaž Šalamun, though as Charles Simic has noted, Young had “his own original voice. The language, the invention, the imagination, and the sheer fun of his poems is astounding.” Young said himself that, “for me the human drama, the squishy, time-limited pulse, is always at the center of the poem.” In 2011, Young underwent a heart transplant, and his work increasingly engaged with profound questions around mortality and the body. In an interview about his book Fall Higher, published days after his transplant and written during the height of illness, NPR noted that Young “was staring death in the face—but he was still able to look at his life and see art in it.”

The final lines of Dean's latest manuscript:


Ecstasy is willingness.

I dare you to find a river any other way.

I dare you to breathe.

Some cries never reach us

Even though they’re our own.

The best endings are abrupt.

Listen to an NPR interview with Dean Young:

00:00 / 07:19

From 'In Memory of Dean Young' / Copper Canyon Press

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