Friday, June 17, 2011


I was initially attracted to this poem for the title's sake, as I have a thing about long clunky titles that are intriguing, so this one sucked me in. But then I was having such a hard time making sense of the poem, as it relates to the title. But bingo, my break-in was actually via Laurie's mention of, When Dean Young Talks about Wine, which I found to be a brilliantly funny parody of Young and his style. And I strongly suspect that Young's, On Being Asked, was the spinoff poem from which the parody was written. A line in the parody says, "when Dean Young talks about seems that wine is rarely mentioned." So I thought, ok, Young rarely mentions the actual title matter, but what is he saying in subtext w/ all his ruminatings?

Its interesting to see the differences in style from Whale Watch, one of his years later works where he'd grown and this one, from Beloved Infidel, which was only his 2nd book. Perhaps, part of the reason his ramblings are less relatable to subject at hand, is he was just less deft at twining his stream of consciousness style, still in experimental and growth stages. And a clever fellow poet, totally picked up on this and satirized it. Though after umpteen reads, I did pick out more of his ref. for the student/girl, they are deftly interspersed w/ his whimsical musings on a past love and multiple ref. to our mortality and how we'll all die. Like here from the beginning of the piece:

I say get her alone in a kitchen.
I say what Keats said.
I say don't wear that. I display the driftwood
you picked up at McClure's the day we saw the whale.
Part question mark, part claw, part stroke
personified. I say buy her a box of crayons,
the big 64 box. I say you'll be dead soon

This next section, its easy to see the inspiration for the parody:

{I move the triangle
toward the furnace as indication of the indeterminacy
of all human affairs. There is no triangle, there is no
furnace.} I say when I was alone
and miserable. I let the canoe stutter
and drift. I lift my hands like someone asked to dance
a dance I don't know how to. I have this pain.
I have died this way in a previous life,

But yet, I bracketed the beginning section that seemed to make no sense whatsoever. Until finally it did. He uses the concrete (but true to his style, nonsensical) image of the triangle moved/towards furnace to represent the highly abstract concept of the indeterminacy of human affairs. Then he states there really is no triangle/furnace, driving the point of indeterminacy all the way home. A very weird and wise man is this Dean Young, and I'm totally digging his style.

This one (section of a) line is to me, some of the sagest advise given to the boy regarding his potential girl:

I ask her name. I say spell it.

I particularly liked this one, as it seems to say, knowing, remembering, using her name is important, make sure you have that down pat. Women like it when you use their name (hell, I think all people do) makes them feel you are truly seeing them and speaking right to them.


  1. FYI - Tony and Dean are not just fellow poets, they are also very, very close friends. When Young needed a heart transplant, recently, it was Tony who put out the call for donations. They have often done summer workshops together, in the past. That I should be so lucky to have attended one...

    And yes, I think this poem, or several others by Young could have inspired the poem I referred to. I think maybe what he is actually saying in this poem is that what you do with the girl is that you start out with something planned and then you end up being yourself, because, really, you can't help it and if she is the right one, she will like you, anyway. And you make your decision about whether or not you should ask her out based on how she responds to the real you, not the planned you.

  2. Jeanne,

    I wish I asked a certain boy last night to spell his name. Now he's lost to me. I should have read Dean Young before going out.

    Best, Jee

  3. Now I'm feeling relieved I haven't had any students come to me with boy/girl trouble. I would probably ramble and try to divert the subject back onto the final exam, just like Young's narrator does.

  4. Yes, Jee, I hear ya. I'm rather wishing I'd been reading Dean Young before I had my last dating spree too. But alas, (whenever I get up the nerve again) now I shall be (better) prepared.