Fire Is Speaking

Dean Young, American poet and teacher, needs a heart transplant.

Here's an open letter from Tony Hoagland reprinted from The National Foundation for Transplants:
Dear Friends,
If you are reading this, you are probably a friend of Dean Young and/or a friend of poetry. And you may have heard that our friend is in a precarious position. Dean needs a heart transplant now. He also needs your assistance now.
Over the past 10 or 15 years, Dean has lived with a degenerative heart condition--congestive heart failure due to idiopathic hypotropic cardiomyopathy. After periods of more-or-less remission, in which his heart was stabilized and improved with the help of medications, the function of his heart has worsened. Now, radically.
For the last two years he has had periods in which he cannot walk a block without resting. Medications which once worked have lost their efficacy. He is in and out of the hospital, unable to breathe without discomfort, etc. Currently, Dean's heart is pumping at an estimated 8% of normal volume.
In the past, doctors have been impressed with his ability to function in this condition. But now things are getting quickly worse. Dean has been placed on the transplant list at Seton Medical Center Austin, and has just been upgraded to a very critical category. He's got to get a heart soon, or go to intermediate drastic measures like a mechanical external pump.
Whatever the scenario, the financial expenses, both direct and collateral, will be massive. Yes, he has sound health insurance, but even so, he will have enormous bills not covered by insurance--which is where you can help, with your financial support.
If you know Dean, you know that his non-anatomical heart, though hardly normal, is not malfunctioning, but great in scope, affectionate and loyal. And you know that his poetry is what the Elizabethans would have called "one of the ornaments of our era"--hilarious, heartbreaking, courageous, brilliant and already a part of the American canon.
His 10-plus books, his long career of passionate and brilliant teaching, most recently as William Livingston Chair of Poetry at the University of Texas at Austin; his instruction and mentorship of hundreds of younger poets; his many friendships; his high, reckless and uncompromised vision of what art is: all these are reasons for us to gather together now in his defense and support.
Joe Di Prisco, one of Dean's oldest friends, is chairing a fundraising campaign conducted through the National Foundation for Transplants (NFT). NFT is a nonprofit organization that has been assisting transplant patients with advocacy and fundraising support since 1983.
If you have any questions about NFT, feel free to contact the staff at 800-489-3863. You may also contact Joe personally at jdiprisco@earthlink.net.
On behalf of Dean, myself, and the principle of all our friendships in art, I ask you to give all you can. Thanks, my friends.
Yours,
Tony Hoagland
You can help.
To make a donation to NFT in honor of Dean, click the link below his photo. If you'd prefer to send your gift by mail, please send it to the NFT Texas Heart Fund, 5350 Poplar Avenue, Suite 430, Memphis, TN 38119. Please be sure to write "in honor of Dean Young" on the memo line.
Thank you for your generosity!

I had no idea about Young's condition. He is adored by many and is, I hear, an excellent teacher. While I own only one of his books, and he's not a poet that I go to repeatedly, I do always read his work when I come across it in journals and magazines, and, over the years, I've posted a small handful of his poems on this blog. (See links below.) I have a great deal of admiration and respect for his work and for the tone he's brought to the poetics discourse. Never spiteful or angry or callous. Always humorous, selfless, and generous.

The poetry community is rallying together to help. If you can donate, please consider it.


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Fire Is Speaking

Fire is speaking again,
Everything belongs to me.
A bird flies over--not even a challenge.
A handkerchief, a window, a war.
A little girl helped up the steps into a train.
Two crazy winos arguing about the formation of the universe,
one says, Time folding, the other, You’re not listening.
A valentine out of paper doilies with blunt scissors.
It’s almost eighty years ago,
the tree wants to tell how far it’s come,
the mountain how fast it can run,
the past in the form of a locomotive
knows it must switch from coal to electricity
to ever catch up.
A book of poems by Apollonaire left on a table.
No, a man comes back to get it
before the table is removed,
the floor torn up,
the whole building knocked down.
Zephyrs over a doorway--
you don't see work like that anymore,
in a a different form they lived in Sophocles.
And how to get at the fullness of life,
its quivering and rush
first with blunt scissors
then symbolic notation?
Sometimes fire seems to be elsewhere
but it is only resting.
I cannot live without you
says the soldier gripping the little girl's hand
only she is no longer a little girl,
it is 20 years later, could this be the one
who the valentine was for?
May, the air full of pollen, kerchoo.
A handkerchief changes hands.
The argument about the universe heats up.
They're not crazy winos,
they're retired emeritus professors of theoretical physics.
One was a soldier in another country long ago.
Sheep are blocking the road.
A train goes by
and a little girl holds a cut-out heart to the window
and he holds the reins of his horse,
happy he doesn't have to shoot anyone at the moment
and no one is shooting back
and to gallop over the hill to the sea.
What would his life have been
if he hadn't gone back for the book?
It is the scary face of chance looking at him
but when he sees the girl at the table,
it's the other face.
A cheek, a handkerchief, a wave.
A baby, a conservatory, a garden.
She sits at the piano with the lid closed.
A sigh falls from the sheet of music.
The train lets out a blast of steam.
An old man walks in a garden
checking his head for equations
until a girl runs towards him with a paper heart.
A horse the color of smoke.
Better why not yes now.
Must you go so soon.
She takes off his glove.
Handprint on the window,
handprint on the sky.


Dean Young
from Elegy on Toy Piano


More Dean Young poetry @ Against Oblivion:

"Scarecrow on Fire"
"Off the Hook Ode"
"Selected Recent and New Errors"
"The Infirmament"




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