The World of 10,000 Things: Dean Young's Recovery from Heart Transplant

By Harriet Staff

(Photo by Richard P. Gabriel)

Dean Young has a new book out and, thankfully, a new heart. After battling a degenerative heart condition for over a decade, which took a major turn for the worst this past year, Young received a new heart from a twenty-two year old donor in April, just a few days before the release of Fall Higher.

Young took time out from his recovery to speak with NPR's  Morning Edition, in which he spoke about his illness and recovery and, among other things, getting back to work:

Young, whose work is often frank and rich with twisted humor, tells NPR's Renee Montagne that as he recovers from surgery, he's also slowly returning to his everyday writing habits.

"I'm getting back to it," Young says. "Not with the sort of concentration and sort of gusto that I look forward to in the future, but I am blackening some pages."

Young also talks about writing poems while "staring death in the face":

"I think that's one of the jobs of poets: They stare at their own death and through it they still see the world — the world of 10,000 things," Young says. "Poetry is about time running out, to some extent. You can think of that purely formally — the line ends, the stanza ends and the poem itself ends."

He says he finds something pleasurable and reassuring about seeing on the page where a poem will end — and that something gets lost when a poem is read aloud.

Young's work also touches on themes of randomness and fate — two factors that contributed to him getting a second chance in the form of a new heart from a 22-year-old student.

"Everything in life is molecules bouncing against molecules," Young says, and having a successful transplant is no different. "Somebody had to die; it had to be a fit; my blood and his blood had to not have an argument; the heart had to be transported; I had to get it."

There were, in short, an amazing number of variables that led to Young being here today.

The article, complete audio interview and poems (some written since the procedure) can all be found here.

Originally Published: May 23rd, 2011