Gary Young, No Other Life, Creative Arts Book Company, 2002
I read all the prose poems I can find in anthologies and magazines. Of all the people writing prose poems now, Gary Young is the most unassuming and the best. Our American Basho, operating with zero fanfare.
The poems are always short and untitled and deceptively easy to read. I've never found so much emotion in so little space. Before I know it, I'm sent reeling.
This book actually contains three of Gary Young's previously published books: Days, Braver Deeds, and If He Had. In the poems included here, especially Braver Deeds, there is a tremendous loss of life. Parents, children and beloveds die. Imagine reading the headlines from Iraq, but without being able to close your heart.
His new poems, being published now in magazines like Sentence: a journal of prose poetics, are gentler, more celebratory. The celebration is made real by its grounding in the knowledge of loss. Hopefully these new poems will soon be included in a book.
All hail Gary Young! We buy him a sushi dinner for sure, if he ever showed up in Tokyoland.
I won't quote my favorite Gary Young poems, it's better to just come across them and let them catch you unguarded. Here's one picked at random.
(from page 80)
My son is learning about death, about the possibilities. His cat was killed. Then Mark died, then Ernesto. He watched the news, and saw soldiers bulldozed into the earth after battle. Down the road, a boy his age was found floating in a pond. My son says, we're careful about water, and splashes in his own warm bath. We don't want to die, he says, we want to live forever. We only just die later, he says, and nods his head. Death is comprehensible; what comes later is a week away, or two, and never arrives.