Ask a Poet: David Young

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Welcome back to our Ask a Poet blog series! Leading up to the 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival, we will be putting the spotlight on poets you can see at #DPF18, October 18-21. Learn more about a new Festival Poet every Wednesday and Friday, presented in no particular order.

Today, we’re getting to know David Young!


Hey! What’s new with you?
At my advanced age (81), nothing much is new. On the other hand, everything!

What are you currently reading?
Rereading two favorites, Lewis Hyde’s The Gift and David Abrams’ The Spell of the Sensuous. Also two novels: Chelsey Johnson’s Stray City and Paul Russell’s The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov.

If someone sitting next to you on an airplane asked you to describe your poetry, how would you describe it?
I would say a bad term for me might be “nature poet.” Better might be “bioregionalist.” I might go on to describe how early human communities usually had a shaman living on the edge of the village and mediating between the human community and the nonhuman surround: plants, animals, spirits, etc. I still see that as the poet’s best role and function.

What books of poetry/poets do you recommend to a new reader of poems?
I might recommend Robert Frost and Gary Snyder, based on my airplane response.

When did you first discover poetry? What poets made you want to write?
I think T.S. Eliot was the first poet I locked onto. “Rhapsody on a Windy Night.” Now I detest it, mostly. Then along came e.e. cummings and Dylan Thomas. It took me longer to discover my real heroes, Stevens and Williams and of course Yeats. And Rilke.

Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience.
Reading in Italy with my daughter Margaret, who is also a poet.

Over nearly fifty years, David Young has published ten collections of his poetry, culminating in Field of Light and Shadow: Selected and New Poems. During that time he also edited FIELD, a twice-yearly journal of contemporary poetry and poetics. The journal in turn led to the founding of Oberlin College Press, which publishes poetry in translation and new work by contemporary American poets. Thirty other books bear Young’s name, all poetry-related: literary criticism (Shakespeare, Yeats, modernist poetry), anthologies (e.g. Models of the Universe, an anthology of the prose poem) and volumes of poetry in translation. This last category is diverse: Rilke, Tang Dynasty poets, Basho, Petrarch, Montale, Neruda, Miroslav Holub, Paul Celan. He has often been called the best translator of his generation. Young taught at Oberlin College from 1961 until his retirement in 2003. His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the U.S. Award of the International Poetry Forum, the Ohioana Award, designation as a treasure of the state of Ohio,and a Distinguished Achievement Award from his alma mater, Carleton College. 

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