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The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction

4.1 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1555975623
ISBN-10: 1555975623
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

DEAN YOUNG is the author of nine collections of poetry, including Primitive Mentor, Embryoyo, and Elegy on Toy Piano, which was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. He teaches at the University of Texas, Austin.

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Product Details

  • Series: Art of...
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (July 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555975623
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555975623
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

DEAN YOUNG has published eleven books of poetry, including finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and Griffin Award. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the NEA, as well as an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is the William Livingston Chair of Poetry at the University of Texas.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I've always sworn that the day I actually use the cliché designation `a tour de force' is the day I should stop writing reviews, but I can honestly say that phrase, at its most genuine sentiment, is what needs to be bannered across the cover of this book, practically as a genre all its own.

I should admit some bias here-as a young poet directly in the middle of earning the degree everyone and their grandmother has an opinion on, the MFA, this book felt almost supernaturally conscious of me and many of my own convictions and concerns regarding poetry. Young's accusations are nearly universally my own; his passionate beliefs are ones I myself share and his articulation of them not only offers the welcome comfort of knowing that I Am Not Alone In This Room, but also that they have been spelled out far more brilliantly than I could hope to.

The accusation here, to boil many down to one, is `simply' that poetry has been relegated far too often (and far too easily) to the realm of craft, with all the neatness, perfection, and of course streamlined efficiency one might associate with that word. What has become neglected, Young asserts, is the primitive, the way that poetry might be seen to spring forth both out of and in response to our `first needs', the so-called human pang, a kind of emotional and spiritual dialogue with everyone and no one, transcribed literally.

The `answer', to use a somewhat reductive label, is what one might expect, which is to say the opposite of the above. A return to this primitive, a dismissal of what Young calls `The dry-ice fog of experimental poetry', among other examples of what we might term gimmickry.
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In the interest of brevity I'll summarize as follows: text on craft is not my favorite reading, but Young has done something special and beautiful here. It's poetry, process, theory, history, psychology, and incitement to act all rolled into a lyrical hunk of prose that's as useful as it is enjoyable to read. I'm a fan of Young's poetry, and this is easily my favorite of the last three of his books I've read. It's dog-eared to all hell and the people in my life are tired of hearing about it.
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I'm trying to complete my grading at the end of this semester, but despite the demands, I cannot stop dipping into this book. I can't go on, I'll go on. Get it & edify yourself, evolve your poetics.

And if you want to help the author, Young is currently in need of a heart transplant - donate at the National Foundation for Transplants in his name ([...])
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I bought this book based on rave reviews on this site and realized almost immediately that this is a book aimed at writers looking for a preacher man, or guru of sorts. First, the copyeditor or editor should have red-flagged those all-cap gems of wisdom he likes to impart--bad form in any writing as it always makes me feel as though I'm being reprimanded.

Second, some of the writing makes no sense to me; indeed, it often sounds as though the author is trying to convince me to buy something I don't need, and I'd better buy it precisely because I don't think I need it.

Third, he doesn't want me in his club unless I agree with him. On page 14, he writes (screams) in all caps, which I won't reproduce here: "The highest accomplishment of human consciousness is the imagination and the highest accomplishment of the imagination is empathy and the ability to love...." Well, I didn't get this right away, because there was no comma between the first two clauses, so I had to go back an read it again. And just as I realized what he was trying to say and pondering its validity, he writes: "...and if you don't think that takes a profound part in the creation of the world, please close this book right now."

Can you figure this out? I can't. What takes a profound part in the creation of the world? Not sure. So not only does he yell at his readers by all-capping his driving points, he tells us to go away if we don't agree with what he is saying, and too bad if we don't get it right away. So I'm back in middle school?

Young will never be accused of clarity of writing. I could go to any page in the book, drop my finger randomly on a sentence, and declare it ambiguous at best, self-gratifying at worst.
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Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed and found useful Dean Young's "Recklessness," and I've always enjoyed his poetry. I must, however, offer a qualifying statement. The book is weakened by demonstrating too well the very "method" it describes, extreme intelligence whimsically at play but tripping off now and then, through lack of discipline and critical self-reflection, into little eddies of silliness that can whirl round and round forever, but from which there is no escape. In other words, I loved this book, or more precisely I loved 96.28945028% of it. I sense an arrogant refusal on Young's part to defer to an intelligence greater than his own, of which Young's intelligence (his vision, his being, whatever...) is but a reflection, and I'm NOT talking about the supposed "intelligence" of personified Language. Young finds a zillion different ways of saying that "poetry is its own standard" and that the success or failure of a poem is measured against the poem itself. (I'm simplifying, of course, but that's what he's dancing around.) This notion of art as its own standard and reason for being, nowadays the default assumption, isn't just silly, it's literally insane. The madman in the asylum knows he's Napoleon. He's absolutely certain of it. Something cannot be ITS OWN standard. A standard, by its very nature, exists APART from the thing being measured. Emerson said poets were like gods, which seems to me a very dumb thing to say. If poets were like gods, why would they be writing poetry? For myself, I write poetry precisely because I feel in my heart how profoundly un-god-like I am. If I was god-like I sure wouldn't waste my time writing poetry. "Art for art's sake" is a dead end, the poem as madman in his padded cell. The madness of autonomy isn't freedom. It's slavery.

I read Young's book with real delight. And yet.
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