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The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction
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The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction

4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  375 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
In The Art of Recklessness, Dean Young's sprawling and subversive first book of prose on poetry, imagination swerves into primitivism and surrealism and finally toward empathy. How can recklessness guide the poet, the artist, and the reader into art, and how can it excite in us a sort of wild receptivity, beyond craft? "Poetry is not a discipline," Young writes. "It is a h ...more
Paperback, 167 pages
Published July 20th 2010 by Graywolf Press (first published 2010)
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Oct 03, 2012 Lee rated it really liked it
Recommended manifesto re: primitivism, Navajo poems, Romanticism, Rimbaud, Duchamp, Dada, Surrealism, the radioactive core of inspired work, on and on. Covers too much ground to summarize. Formal swerve matches content (see also On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry by William Gass). Wonderfully composed, inspiring, affirming of life and art, even if it sometimes seems intentionally excessively overecstatic/associative. Too many page corners turned down to count. More LOLs than expected for som ...more
Ryan Smith
Jul 12, 2010 Ryan Smith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
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 m
Mar 01, 2015 Jsavett1 rated it liked it
I love Dean Young and have also found many volumes of this series on the craft on poetry quite helpful. The three stars here aren't for Young's IDEAS--they are fabulous and inspirational. But the book itself, how can I expect differently given the title, is repetitive, a little too self-indulgent and hyperbolic. By its end, you'll feel like writing a poem is the creation of a cosmos and the destruction of another one. And as a poet, on some level, I pray that this is the case. But after a while, ...more
Debbie Petersen
Jan 07, 2011 Debbie Petersen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
This is not the kind of book you breeze through, despite it's diminutive size. I started and stopped it several times since receiving it in First Reads, and it has lived on the nightstand for months. Finally I just tossed it into my bag to read when time became available throughout the day.(Here is where the small size comes in handy.) I'm about to read it again with a highlighter handy and will be adding more detail to this review, but in the meantime I highly recommend it to anyone who loves p ...more
Oct 18, 2012 Krzysztof rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure this is a full five stars, but everything after
"STANZA BREAK" was brilliant and the whole thing is so in line with how I view poetry that I'm looking past the jumbled beginning.

I can't really blame people if they gave up on this. The lack of focus from the get-go could be hard to push through. Young's use of ALL CAPS FOR MINOR STATEMENTS comes off as shouting and his challenge to the reader on page 14 to close the book if you don't agree with him really annoys.

If you stick around,
Apr 19, 2011 Toni rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2011
Not a quick or an easy read. Not a craft book — more of an anti-craft book. I've gotten lost more than once. Another reviewer said dense, passionate, and reckless. I concur. It's a book to go back to again and again, is maybe best taken in small doses. Read a little. Think. Then maybe, think again.

It's a lot about opening up, disrupting expectations, being a little crazy, goofy, unruly. It's about accessing the primitive, the primary ground. In Young's words, "Let us get better at not knowing w
Joan Colby
Apr 30, 2013 Joan Colby rated it it was amazing
Young’s assertion that poetry “is no more a thing than fire is; rather it is a conversion that reveals itself in the instance of its occasion.” aligns with my own ideas. He uses many examples from art to illustrate how poetry evolves, suggests and rebels against its predecessors. He contradicts himself slightly in arguing that poetry is not craft, but later stating that it’s imperative for the poet to detach himself from the work “to see poems as things, material to be manipulated.” He acknowled ...more
Apr 16, 2013 CG FEWSTON rated it it was amazing
The Art of Recklessness by Dean Young is a breath of fresh air for any who read books about the art of poetry or the craft thereof. The portable book offers some wonderful advice to any writer. One I enjoyed: “At every moment the poet must be ready to abandon any prior intention in welcome expectation of what the poem is beginning to signal. More than intending, the poet ATTENDS!” (p 4)
And later: “Meaningless results not from too little but too much meaning” (p 91).

One of the great things about
Sep 29, 2010 Leanna rated it really liked it
"The Art of" Series is edited by Charles Baxter. I found this book fascinating--it articulated Young's aesthetic and pedagogy in a way that I found both interesting and helpful (he's my professor!) It also intersected nicely with a class I am taking now which deals with a lot of Surreal and Modern texts--Young gives brief histories of Romanticism, Dadaism, Surrealism, and Modernism, and talks about how these schools unfolded. Young has been described as both a "new" New York School poet and also ...more
John Pappas
Dec 11, 2011 John Pappas rated it really liked it
Another hit in the extending line of "The Art of..." books, edited by Charles Baxter and published by Graywolf Press, poet Dean Young's prose is as reckless as his subject -- the recklessness of poetry itself. Tacking back and forth over a significant sea of information, art and literature (including a wonderful tangent on Hamlet) Young explores the contradictions and subjectivities in poetry -- all poetry, not just the contemporary poetry Young writes and for which he makes a case. Touching on ...more
Aug 20, 2011 Kitty rated it really liked it
The Art of Rec kles sn ess examines primitivism, surrealism and the “wild receptivity” of imagination that excites something beyond craft and draws us near to empathy. Young emphasizes the fact that being human, we are not “equations with hats”, nor is it necessarily beneficial to hold our words on long leashes so that they describe what we perceive. Don’t be fooled by the word, “Reckless” in the title, as imagination has its own clarity. Rather, the etymology, which stems from Old English, recc ...more
Mike Zickar
Apr 29, 2015 Mike Zickar rated it liked it
A very interesting read. . . at times it was 5 star and other times just a confusing mix. In fact, at the end Young writes something like "What is the purpose of this book anyway?"

Don't read this book with the expectation that you're going to get some clear guidelines about how to add recklessness to your writing. Treat it as a long extended essay that meanders various topics, often with brilliant writing and then other times meandering in a distracting direction.
Oliver Ho
Feb 07, 2014 Oliver Ho rated it really liked it
This is a provocative and strange little book. Mind-boggling in many ways. It's a manifesto/ars-poetica-prose-poem/rant that conveys tremendous passion, and it's more than a little puzzling. It's dense and twisty, yet almost endlessly quotable, and his meandering rhythm of thought is totally infectious. I'll definitely re-read this and often.
May 25, 2015 Jessica rated it it was amazing
This was a great book to chip away at during my first year of graduate school, and while I don't wholesale agree with every point Young makes (factpoems 4ever) his exploration of Surrealism as a destabilization of linear, craft-based approaches to poetry, alongside his presentation of the mutually arising creation/destruction of personal identity were resonant with Eastern ideals of impermanence in a way that was surprising and delightful. I'll probably start dream journaling more consistently a ...more
Jan 18, 2016 Drunken_orangetree rated it liked it
Interesting if digressive argument about how Surrealism impacts the writing of poetry.

The last half of the book is particularly good: a standard account of Surrealism's origins in dada leads into a discussion of Surrealism and the decentered self, and how that decentered self is evident in Hamlet, Wordsworth's early versions of The Prelude, and in Whitman's poetry.
Jun 11, 2014 Dan rated it it was amazing
This is blowing my mind once per page. Overall, it's about poetry, but Dean Young jumps around discussing topics as varied as: primitive art, dada, Gertrude Stein, Rimbaud, otherness, sex, craft, Ezra Pound, disruption, Picasso... in a way that makes it easy to understand the connection between those things. For instance, I'd never considered how WWI led to Dada which led to Surrealism. This book contains the most insightful explanation of Surrealism that I've read. It's obvious that Young is re ...more
Mar 17, 2014 Tobias rated it really liked it
Shelves: read2014
I quite enjoyed it, especially as someone who needs to read more poetry. Kinda wish Young hadn't gone all-caps for certain sentences, but that's a mild quibble.
Sep 17, 2011 Taka rated it really liked it

At first I thought it was just too weird—is it an essay? A meditation? A diatribe? Or poetry?—and was frustrated at times by the metaphysical and abstract bent of his writing in the beginning, but after finishing the book, I must say I enjoyed what the book has to say about the creative process, the imagination, and poetry (or any creative work for that matter). The weird style in which it's written, too, is just another "reckless" way the author challenges convention and his writing is ass
Lisa Roney
Dean Young makes not-the-same-old points about writing poetry. This book is refreshing and insightful.
Jan 20, 2013 Daryoung rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, nf-other
This book, which, in genre is closest to a long essay about poetry, was really good for me. At times Young wanders (and the whole thing is a wonder/wander) to topics that bored me, but the concept of letting recklessness drive my art is something I need to incorporate in order to make the next step in my progress. Young's own work is a great example of the freshness and electricity that recklessness can bring to poetry, though I sometimes feel his work could use a little more craft (revision?) o ...more
Dec 12, 2010 Kristin rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I read The Art of Recklessness at the recommendation of a professor, and while I can't say my views align with Young's all the time (or, hell, even most of the time), I'm glad to have read it. Though short, the book is dense and takes some unpacking, and Young's ideas are worth the time it takes to work through them. Parts of the book felt truly freeing, and for that, I'm thankful. Though I wouldn't recommend this to every poet or reader of poetry, I know it would certainly work for some.
Apr 08, 2011 Tara rated it it was amazing
A small, gripping book (in the “The Art of” series from Graywolf Press) about the forces colliding in the urge to write poetry, about poetry’s purpose in the world, the poet’s gift, etc. Illuminating (actual poems and poets are discussed) and inspirational, with the occasional capitalized declaration: “Some people try to convince you poetry is so important you have no business trying to write it without severe indoctrination. But POETRY CAN’T BE HARMED BY PEOPLE TRYING TO WRITE IT!”
Dec 03, 2012 Ie rated it liked it

Young just had to prove his point. He was probably drunk and drugged the whole way through, his reckless writing increasingly irritating, which was perhaps the point. I dunno. I wanted to like this guy, this book because of his first and last few pages, which were manic yes, but more focused, which proved that he could. But there was just too much Surrealism, too much Dada, and too much nonsense in the middle that the incredible parts were almost not worth it.
Oct 12, 2010 Allyson rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: JSA & Farren
Shelves: poetics
"Quaintness may be the worst that can happen to an art, its fire replaced by a lava lamp" (8). Well said, sir.
I don't know why I pulled this book off my shelf, I'm just glad I did. Comps Weekend is in three weeks and I will be referencing this work in the poetics/theory part, for sure. I love you, Dean Young, for writing this book. Whenever I see you walk by me in your leather jacket at AWP I will send you thankful, energetic mind-vibes.
Apr 07, 2013 Kaitlin rated it it was amazing
Compelling read on poetic Surrealism. Borderline discursive and heady; found myself glazing over some paragraphs, but by the end I discovered that I am more attracted to the theory of surrealism than surrealist art: a resurrection of the imaginative subject. A childlike marveling at the world. An undefined relationship between self and other, subject and object. A questioning of reality, an abandonment of comfort. Creative play.
Tory Selz
Sep 11, 2015 Tory Selz rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I'm not a huge fan of Dean Young's poetry. I guess I just don't like his style, because I think the ideas he espouses in this book are worthwhile and I agree with most of them...but in spite of that, his attempts at playfulness and/or gravity come across as wearing to me (like someone's talking very fast and loudly right in my face).

Content: 4.5 stars
Style: 1.5 stars
Robin Goodfellow
Jan 04, 2013 Robin Goodfellow rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetic
Stunningly brilliant, both as a work of art and as a teaching tool.

Part exemplary guide, part philosophical treatise, pure powerful poetry: he fully illustrates the assertive force that writing is capable of.

This is a book I will never part with and will read again and again.

The whole series is stellar, truly out-of-this-world good.

Can I praise it more??
Tim Sailer
Oct 23, 2010 Tim Sailer rated it really liked it
This is one crazy poetics/criticism book.
Young lost me a few times, but it was still a lot of fun to read. I underlined quite a bit. I loved the discussion on Hamlet. If you're really, really into poetry, I'd pick this up. It's not very long, but it's kind of all over the place. It's dense, it's certainly passionate and reckless (for lack of a better word).
Darin Ciccotelli
Jan 23, 2012 Darin Ciccotelli rated it really liked it
Unlike the other "Art of" poetry books, this one reads less like a craft book and more like a manifesto. If you already know a lot about the Surrealist and Dada movements, you might get bored. But I read this as a way of jumpstarting my own writing, and it seems to have served its purpose. I underlined a lot of phrases and dog-eared a lot of pages.
Jan 10, 2014 Cary rated it really liked it
I sorta half paid attention to this whole hegemonic book. It was enjoyable. Kinda like flipping through channels.
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Dean Young is a contemporary American poet in the poetic lineage of John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, and Kenneth Koch. Though often cited as a second-generation New York School poet, his work also resonates with the Surrealist poetry of Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, and Guillaume Apollinaire, and if neo-surrealism has a poetic corollary then it is him. His most recent books are Elegy on Toy Piano ...more
More about Dean Young...

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“Poetry is not efficient. If you want to learn how to cook a lobster, it’s probably best not to look to poetry. But if you want to see the word lobster in all its reactant oddity, its pied beauty, as if for the first time, go to poetry. And if you want to know what it’s like to be that lobster in the pot, that’s in poetry too.” 9 likes
“Just because a thing can't be done doesn't mean it can't be did. We all look into mirrors and see phantoms. Our error is our Eros. Why is there something instead of nothing? The answer is reckless and surreal.” 8 likes
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