Monday, June 27, 2011

The Business of Love is Cruelty -REDUX, Dean Young

I'm going to do something a bit different and come back to this last poem, and write it up some more. Re-examining this piece in terms of craft has been quite the learning curve!! - wanna join me?? The reason being, for one of his shorter pieces, there is just so much more I'm noticing that is so effective. I focused more on content and meaning earlier, but some of his technique is so intriguing, because I didn't much understand what exactly is at work here. Some could definitively label it, but I just know it works and very well indeed. Doing this Remo type Napo is sucha blessed learning experience, in the parsing out, and in reading the feedback and gleaning further from that (I also find I've easily written some decent drafts as a direct result, bonus). So my focus now is on the lovely musicality of these sections of extended analogy of his Acting out of his vindictive Cruelty. In a different way, he is using contrast as a medium, because the section where he's describing the Act of Cruelty, he could easily have went for harsh mirroring sonics, used tonal and rhythmic disjunction to make the lines clunk; in describing an Act of ugliness, he could have mirrored uglyness. But no - he went a total nother way. It reminds me somewhat of the trademark film style of John Woo, and how he would take an unusually brutal scene,but instead of portraying it as such, he would slow it down, make it dance, literally, to music that would not be seen as appropriate to such brutality, employ artful cinematography to make the scene somehow visually beautiful in all its ugliness. (Think Reservoir Dogs, dancing to "Stuck in the Middle With You"). mother kneeling and
she's kneeling and somehow I know

exactly how to do it, calmly,
enunciating like a good actor projecting
to the last row, shocking the ones
who've come in late, cowering

out of their coats, sleet still sparking
on their collars, a voice nearly licking
their ears above the swordplay and laments:
I hate you.

Now her hands are rising to her face.
Now the fear done flashing...

Notice the prevalent use of ing ending words. I'd somewhat noticed them, on subsequent reads, but they really popped when i finally read the piece aloud. I didn't know why this was so effective in creating such a theatrical effect, but I sure noticed it did. So I looked up the various ing-words and got a brushup in the difference between gerunds and participles. And also found this very helpful blog , that encapsulated the effect thus: "can be used effectively to add a sense of movement to poetry. To do this, the writer must pre-think (and often re-think) his choices of frequency and placement." And this encapsulates it more concisely than I could, so I shall end on that note.


  1. Hi Jeanne -

    Coincidentally, I've wanted to understand gerunds myself lately, and I'm working on something to add to your research. I'll post it here.

    I agree with you that he creates a dramatic effect in this excerpt. I'm happy to get an introduction to his work through your interpretations.

  2. I happy that you're happy. I'm loving this guys style, its so innovative and he has something important to say, thought provoking, always. Looking forward to your gerund research. Gawd, we are such writer geeks. Can you just hear us to most of the general world populace?! hehe

  3. Dean Young makes you look under what he says to what he doesn't. I know from the excerpts and from the title, that I am thinking, O.K. so what is the other side? What is behind the "I hate you?" The mother's side, that is. Her act(s) of cruelty in love. See, Young mentions fear. Whose? The mother's? The child's? And perfection. Is the child wanting to perfect the cruelty or was it the expectation of perfection that prompted the cruelty. The connection to Frankenstein's monster and the failure of that experiment makes me wonder. Young leaves enough out to make rethinking almost mandatory. Of course, I don't have access to the whole poem, so maybe the poem fills that in, but those are things, from what you give us that get me wondering. And yes, at pffa we are taught to avoid gerunds like the plague. Because of poets like Young, I am learning they can be very, very effective. He is amazing.