Words Working for Their Keep: Dean Young’s First Course In Turbulence

First Course in Turbulence, Dean Young
First Course in Turbulence, Dean Young

First Course in Turbulence, Dean Young’s fourth book of poems, displays a virtuosity of image simultaneously with an economy of words.  He suggests meanings, sets tone, foreshadows later parts of poems, and sometimes does so all at once.

In “The Woman Who Parks in front of My House”, Young makes the opening words and first line break work as hard as possible. The poem begins:

The Woman Who Parks in Front of My House

hair the color of red vinyl talking
to a guy who’s walked his 10-speed

First, there is the brief, shocking image of “red vinyl talking” as if the vinyl is talking. The vinyl is conflated with the woman’s hair, which implies her hair is talking, which makes the red of her hair even more vivid and shocking.  The line break gives just enough time for the idea of talking, vinyl, red hair to begin to lodge in thought before connecting “talking” to the more prosaic idea of talking to a person.

Yet the image, so brief, of talking hair conjurs the image of hair that is alive, which is a tiny jump to hair like snakes and the mythical Medusa. Medusa is never mentioned in the poem. Yet the effect of turning one to stone is essentially the effect the woman has on the guy. He talks to her yet never gets across his point, never gets beyond the intellectual to what he really wants to say.  The poem works its way back through time (Tallyrand, Delacroix, Napoleon) to ancient Greek myth. Achilles and Agamemmnon “glare at each other” and generals think “We really / are going to be here forever” — all this seems to underscore that the guy might as well be a statue and the woman might as well be Medusa. Those first two lines laid the groundwork for the woman’s vividness and the guy’s drabness throughout the poem.

Take away those first images. The rest of the poem could still convey the same ideas, but it wouldn’t have the same immediacy, the same impact. The stark contrast between the woman’s outrageously lively (even mythical) hair and the guy walking a 10-speed hinged together by the word “talking” sets the stage for the guy’s later seeming despair. So much was possible that turns out not to have been achieved. Those first two lines are working very hard indeed.  The woman drives off and the guy is left behind, like a statue.

 Throughout First Course in Turbulence, Young displays this same willingness to pack words with layers of meanings and uses, and his poems are richer for it.


photo credit: Ryan McGuire, Gratisography

New Book In Progress: Sisyphus

My next book of poems is titled Sisyphus  and I am drafting it on wattpad.  Hurray!  Or insanity!

I can’t decide which descriptor is more applicable — drafting ,in public, a book that includes poems already completed as well as new ones that are needed to fill in the gaps is exciting and frightening at the same time.

For those who aren’t familiar with Wattpad, it is a free platform for readers and writers.  It was designed, originally, for prose writers to post free work, which is why every time I post a poem it looks like a new ‘chapter’.  Readers can follow a writer, can comment on a work within a work, vote for chapters they like.  I have seen some really great work posted, and some I didn’t care too much for.  The quality is wildly varying and the quantity is immense.  I’m still playing around with how to find content I enjoy reading and learning my way around the platform.

Sisyphus consists of seven poems published on Wattpad so far, and I have a few in Wattpad’s draft status which readers won’t see until I push the publish button.  I anticipate posting 1-3 poems a week, maybe a few more than that some weeks, but I don’t want to over-promise and then disappoint.

When I post each new poem, I send out a tweet.   Wattpad makes it easy to do that right from the app.  If you want to follow me on twitter, I’m @minervatma.

I’d love it if you hopped over to Wattpad and took a look at Sisyphus.  If you are not on wattpad, it takes only a few minutes to set up a free account.   You might find a lot of interesting books you’d like to read.  Here is the link:




Ebook is up with new cover

My book Stars Crawl Out From Their Caves has been republished on Amazon with a new cover — none of the inside content has been changed.  So if you already have a copy, no need to buy another.

if you happen to be in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, I am leaving this book in the program a little  longer, through March.  But in April it will come off of the Kindle Unlimited program so I can publish it in other venues as well.  So if you are a KU participant, now is the time to take a look at the book for no additional cost to you.

Here’s the new cover:



John Muir & Poetry Found in the World

Evergreens in mist

I’ve been reading John Muir’s account of his 1879 trip to Alaska, which he wrote based on his journals and notes from that trip and then published in 1915.  As the small ship on which he sailed was passing among the islands of the Alexander Archipelago, Muir said this about the islands and the surrounding scenery:

“Viewed one by one, they seem detached beauties, like extracts from a poem, while, from the completeness of their lines and the way that their trees are arranged, each seems a finished stanza in itself.”

— John Muir, Travels in Alaska

So there you have it: the ultimate expression of the found poem.   Muir spends several more pages describing what those stanzas, those “blessed evergreen islands,” sum up to, much as one analyzes a typewritten poem.  He can say this in the same breath he describes the shape of the islands and their glaciated formation in technical terms.  He describes their varying forms as being due to the “unequal glacial denudation” to which the various substrates were subject.  Proof again that science, sensitivity, and poetry coexist.