As the editor of the New England Review, C. Dale Young sifts through 65,000 submissions of poetry per year. Of those 65,000, 65 of them will dawn the quarterly’s table of contents. ‘Rejection is your friend,” Young said in a discussion with English professor Jennifer Grotz’s Advanced Poetry Workshop. ‘It doesn’t take long before you’re better than 50 percent of those submissions.”
For Young, defeat not only drives the aspiration toward publication, but propelled his poetry as well. Last week, at the final installment of the Plutzik Reading Series, the poet read ‘Influence,” which he claimed to be the only ‘true” poem from his latest book, ‘The Second Person.”
The speaker narrates a trial from his hopsital residency in which he and his peers failed to correctly identify the culprit of a cadaver’s quietus as the common cold. But defeat transforms the speaker; it causes him to understand more about himself and the world surrounding him.
As a radiation oncologist, Young has become familiar with loss and has developed a humility that permeates his work. But despite the detriments present in both his canon and his 9a.m. to 5p.m., Young has been greeted with overwhelming success throughout his career. It is impossible to forgo mention of Young’s rsum.
After collecting a B.S. from Boston College in 1991, Young matriculated at the University of Florida where he worked on his MFA and doctoral degree in medicine. Though he sees similarities between the two disciplines, Young claims that there is no relation between poetry and medicine. To start, one pays better, and while medicine is a tangible business, poetry thrives on its impalpable existence.
But perhaps more telling is that one discipline forces you to lie, while the other strictly forbids it. In poetry, Young posits, one must lie in order to convey things from his own experiences in a larger-than-life way. Invoking the poet W. H. Auden, Young suggests that through occupying the rational mind, the poetic voice will appear and that poetry prospers on normalcy and corrupted conventionality.
Young is an avid reader. Asserting influences as diverse as Donne and Carl Philips, Young began his reading this past Wednesday with a piece by a colleague, ‘Song” by Brigit Pegeen Kelly. As the poet shuffled through his manuscripts, the audience remained silent, readily awaiting the next verses. The poetry reading offered the poet an opportunity to engage with his audience, rather than just the speaker who normally serves as a liaison between the two parties.
Young shared his experiences with eagerness and often preambled his readings with clarifications of language or anecdotes, making the audience privy to information that is usually unavailable. Throughout the reading, Young happily supplied definitions, geographical background, and even childhood stories.
With his last poem, ‘Torn,” from his upcoming book of the same name, Young explains in starkness, that a tru-cut is not a cut at all and that that is the only thing you need to know about the poem.
‘There was the knife and the broken syringe,” he begins detailing the aftermath of a brutal assault, both physical and mental. ‘Stitch up the faggot in bed 6 is all the ER doctor had said,” a gasp pierces the quiet and for a moment, we devote ourselves to something useless, counterfeit and cheap and as telling about the human condition as a hospital chart.
Friedman is a member of the class of 2012.