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>@7<13=4>@7<B Young says his printmaking work has helped his writing by allowing him to think about poems as objects.
â€œAnd so, God bless people who write poetry, and letâ€™s hope they buy poetry books and read poetry and that it brings them some joy, because thatâ€™s what itâ€™s supposed to do, what it can do.â€?
Freeform In his own writing he has gone from a technically skilled if formally conventional verse to a distinctive style of prose poem that looks simple on the surface but is in fact very tricky and idiosyncratic. In Youngâ€™s hands the simplest observations can open into unexpected depths, often revealing a spiritual dimension in the most seemingly ordinary phenomena: kids playing soccer, the cooking of dinner, a mockingbirdâ€™s song, moonlight through the redwoods, a wild mushroom. Putting his own mark on a form that goes back through Baudelaire in the 19th century all the way to the ancient Chinese masters he reveres, Young has earned a lot of respect in the literary world and a certain amount of controversy as well for trafficking in an oxymoron: prose poetry. In the prose poem, absent the formal framework of lined verse, Young says, â€œYou have to be much more subtleâ€? to create the kinds of linguistic tension and compression characteristic of poetry, â€œand itâ€™s more difficult to achieve.â€? But thatâ€™s one of the things he likes about the form. â€œAnd thereâ€™s something charming about writing poetry that some people donâ€™t think are poems,â€? he adds, laughing. Asked about the slim material rewards of poetry, he replied, â€œIf youâ€™re an artist, your reward is just being able to do the work.â€? And yet paradoxically, at this peak of his artistic accomplishment, he has less
and less time for writing amid his other duties. He laughs this off, too. â€œI feel like I had my retirement in the first half of my life, and now when everyone else is retiring Iâ€™m starting to work. â€œBut also at this age if I donâ€™t write every day, or even every month, I donâ€™t feel like Iâ€™m depriving the world of some aspect of my genius. Itâ€™s not as important to me right now as teaching kids and doing these civic and educational things. I get a lot of pleasure out of it, and after working at this for 40 years I know a lot and donâ€™t mind giving it back.â€? Printing, says Young, has been essential to his development as a poet: â€œIf I have written anything of value, a lot of it is because I became a printer. It allowed me to think about poems as objects, as things, and encouraged me to think of poems as something made, where you would set it in type and feel it in your hands; and the fact that itâ€™s physical, just the fact that youâ€™re using your body, is a real corrective to staying in your head.â€? He told me that when he started out he didnâ€™t expect much. â€œI didnâ€™t know what to expect. I just wanted to see where what I wanted to do would lead me, and 30 years ago if someone had said, â€˜Youâ€™ll be the poet laureate of Santa Cruz County,â€™ I would have laughed.â€? GARY YOUNG launches his term as poet laureate with a reading Sunday, April 18, at 6pm at Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. He will be joined by Ellen Bass, Robert Sward and Stephen Kessler for brief readings and a panel discussion about poetry and community. Music provided by ZunZun. Free. (831.427.2227)
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