An Interview with Dean Young at BOMBLOG
AT I wonder if you intend your poems to have the effect you feel staring at waves. Do you see your poetry working (or not working) to answer existential and moral questions? I’m thinking of Duchamp’s little dictum “No solutions = No problems,” and wonder if the impulse to recklessness, to push at conventions until you get to a place without fear, goes hand-in-hand, in some way, with acceptance?
DY I don’t know about art answering any of life’s problems aside from, in the practice of making art, to help us actually inhabit life. And the appreciation of art, the participation in it (which is what is required of a reader, viewer, listener) is a cultivation of an availability to eruptive feeling, to the manifestation of the secret life in what surrounds us, what makes up our lives. That may cause as many problems as it solves, but art’s objective is to liberate us and sometimes the implications of those liberations can be a little ragged. I don’t like art that tries to distract me from the abyss with decorative handrails. I don’t really respond to art that has an obvious social/political agenda. Art is obligated to nothing. People for good and bad feel great obligations, but I often feel those obligations end up with poems that are over before they start. They are bound by their intentions so securely that the poet can’t really attend to whatever contrary, exploitative impulse the materials may hint at. We live in a time of countless illustrations. I don’t care if it does take a village—does that mean we need so many village explainers? So I guess I don’t think that I use my practice of writing to help me solve moral questions—in fact the notion seems laughable to me. I do know that writing poems reports something back to me, something far more truthful than any uncracked mirror. And one fights the battle to exist at all with the weapons one has—for me that’s my poems. But who is that who exists, and for whom? I suppose I’m rather shallow but hopefully in the way I once heard Ashbery say he was: shallow in a deep way. All the way through. Turtles all the way down.
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