Primitive Mentor


The ninth collection for this Pulitzer Prize finalist, who remains as entertaining, imaginative and inventive as ever.

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Primitive Mentor

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The ninth collection for this Pulitzer Prize finalist, who remains as entertaining, imaginative and inventive as ever.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Dean Young's poems are as entertaining as a three-ring circus and as imaginative as a canvas by Hieronymous Bosch. He is one of the most inventive and satisfying poets writing today.”
—American Academy of Arts and Letters

“Now nine books into his repertoire, Dean Young risks a number of easy criticisms. One of these is that his poems are simply permutations of themselves, that each maps the same territory as the last. Another more conspicuous concern is its extremity. Unabashedly surreal, his imagery and his narrative  impulses can be dismissed as wacky and superfluous. More than any of his past books, ‘Primitive Mentor’ squelches these concerns.”
Coldfront Magazine

“In Young’s work, the big essential questions—mortality, identity, the meaning of life—aren’t simply food for thought; they’re grounds for entertainment.”
The Sunday Star (Ontario, Canada)

Publishers Weekly

The prolific Young (Embryoyo) sometimes seems a creature of mere whimsy, spinning provocative sentences almost at random, one after another; at other times he's a dynamo of invention, whose ceaseless changes of mood and topics, absurd connections between incompatible tones, explicitly sexual energies and underlying unease more than justify his recent prominence and his obvious influence over so many younger American poets. Between its postsurrealist comic claims ("In the desert I feel like I'm made/ entirely of broccoli") and its fun with shock value ("We sniff glue./ I have a medium-sized White House in my sperm"), this ninth book will certainly please fans. Yet the volume also finds Young reaching more often for pathos and earnest representations of pain. One of the best poems begins, "Shouldn't someone have run for help by now?" Another begins, "You must be careful eating thorns." The moments of lament (evoking, at times, Wallace Stevens) allow Young to slow the book down, to make not only a poetry to caricature our contemporary culture (suffused as we are with so much information) but also a verse suffused with halting regret: these saddest of Young's poems might even bring prior doubters into his fold. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822959915
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2008
  • Series: Pitt Poetry Series
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 1,451,306
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Dean Young has published eight previous books, most recently elegy on toy piano, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Embryoyo. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts as well as an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He teaches in the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

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Table of Contents

Dear Reader 1


What Form after Death 5

Disappearing Ink 6

Washing in Cold Water 7

Self Search 8

The Great Loneliness 10

Gruss 11

Look at Quintillions Ripen'd & Look at Quintillions Green 12

Mannerist 14

My Outlook on Life 16

Enter Fortinbras 17

Psalm 18


Flood Plain 21

Desert Ode 22

Liverwurst 24

Wheelchair Race 25

Revolutions Tend toward Orthodoxy 27

Gawker 29

From the Get-Go 31

Admissions Policy 33

Sex with Strangers 35

Poem on a Theme by Tony Hoagland 37

Force of Rabbit 39

Briar 42


You 47

Learning to Live with Bliss 48

Triage 50

Fire Ode 51

Ash Ode 52

Lots of Questions 53

Earth Science Lab Partner 54

Private Waterfall 56

Lives of the Primitives 58

Pelt 60

Lives of the Orphans 61

Sparkler 63

An Orgasm Is a Spaceship 64

Our Kind of People 65

My Itty Void 67

Procession 68


Half Story Half-Life 73

The Hour Light Streams through the House 74

Scatteration 75

Acorn Hitting a Tin Roof 76

The Pure Intention of the Hornet 77

Today They Will Show Me the Homunculus 79

Like My Older Sister 81

Blue Limbo 83

Rose Prick 85

Oddly Folded Bird 86

Grave Tour 87

Exit Exam 89

Afterward 93

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