Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dean Young's The Art of Recklessness

Young's new book-length essay on poetry is terrific. It reminds me of Speed Levitch's SPEEDOLOGY, his wild tour of NYC. If anything, Young's book is not reckless enough.

He uses all-caps sometimes, as when he says SOME THINGS MUST BE MADE OPAQUE TO BE SEEN. The book is full of great pronouncements from him and the pantheon of writers he quotes on the topic of Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction. He cites G.M. Hopkins calling for "More wreck and less discourse," which is great.

My main thought is that Young does not identify and contradict the orthodoxies of contemporary poetry as much as I had hoped. He uses John Ashbery as the signal quote of the book, of course. He presents Ashbery from an essay called The Invisible Avant-Garde saying that the reckless makes experimental art beautiful. I agree, but even the most formal art is reckless in conception, or idea, or on some level, or it fails.

Then he quotes Ashbery going on to say, with the soft-headedness that has characterized him and his followers all too often: "Religions are beautiful because of the strong possibility that they are founded on nothing." Well, if you mean by "nothing" our fear of death, our need for order, our desire to be known, loved, our lust for the absolute, and lots more, then sure, religions are founded on nothing. Those words betray so much naïvete and thin thinking that I'm grateful to Ashbery for having demonstrated his failure to grasp the world outside his nonsensical aesthetic.

I have no love for religion, and no love for poetry that cedes ground to it.

The strong possibility is that Ashbery's poetry is founded on nothing. What amazes me is that Young and others like him (Tim Liu, Elisa Gabbert, Rauan Klassnik, David Berman) have emerged from that wreck and done so much. More on this soon.