As most of us know, reading an assigned text is not always the most enjoyable experience. If you were to tell me that your mind never wanders, or that you never think about everything else you could be doing at that exact moment, I have a feeling you would be lying to me.
Dean Young’s The Art of Recklessness, however, is an entirely different reading experience—one that I would be amiss to try to define—but it is certainly worth the read. Assigned for a Creative Writing II class, I greatly enjoyed reading this book of prose about poetry. Young’s work is masterful and unique, eye-opening and thought-provoking. It’s a book that needs to be read more than once—front to back, back to front, random piece to random piece; it can be chewed up and spit out in an infinite number of ways.
Throughout his book, Young explores the fact that no one really knows how to write a poem. Rather, writers must turn away from ideas of neatness and perfectionism and turn towards the messiness and the instability that comes from crafting creative work; writers must embrace wild, primitive recklessness. Certainly, it would be easy to get hung up on the fact that Young’s work oftentimes appears muddled and non-sequential, and yet, there is an inescapable, alluring sense of recklessness that jumps off the book’s very pages—the exact sort of recklessness that I seek to emulate in my future writing. There is certainly no room for standard and conventional expression here.
For me, creative writing is a newfound interest: it’s therapeutic and cathartic, an escape from research essays and literary-based analyses. For me, The Art of Recklessness offered further insight into the fact that poetry is not a structured exercise; it’s not a craft or a discipline. Rather, as Young writes, it is a primitive impulse, “a hunger, a revolt, a drive, a mash note, a fright, a tantrum, a grief, a hoax, a debacle, an application, an affect” (156). For other, more experienced poets, however, this read would be a great reminder to allow for the mess and wreckage that comes with the initial crafting process, a reminder to not be restrained by convention or overthinking: “WE ARE MAKING BIRDS NOT BIRDCAGES” (47).
It’s not often that a piece of writing shocks me enough to leave a lasting, physical impression… not often that a piece of writing grabs me by the root of my hair and electrocutes me, making my entire body stand on end. And while The Art of Recklessness succeeded in evoking a similar response, perhaps the most wonderful part of this book is the inspiration it gave me to create work that evokes that exact response in someone else.
Future readers… you are just going to have to experience this one for yourself.