Wednesday, November 29, 2006



episodes by Mark Young
(xPress(ed), Espoo, 2006)

I become Mark Young after reading Mark Young. His way of seeing becomes my way of seeing. I listen differently, and I think I talk a little differently. I grow sensitive to odd puns, like in the poem "Sang":

Didn't realize
how much
blood there was
in memories

until she
threw them over-
board &
the sharks
went wild.

The title might or might not have anything to do with singing, but it also means blood.

Mark Young's episodes is a generous collection, wide ranging in topic, styles, constraints, but unified in voice, and humor. Words spark and slip, ideas live out strange, short lives behind the lines of these poems. "...the / comparing of one / experience against / another." It is that choice of the word "against" rather than "with" that makes Mark Young's way of seeing so compelling and contagious. Simply to compare one thing with another -- our brains are doing this all the time, as a matter of unconscious routine. But in Young's poems, there is a tension, a sparking, a frisson that comes from two distant points joined by a short blurred line.

He is also adroit at devious bait-and-switches, like that of "The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde," in which we imagine Ghengis Khan alongside the Native Americans in the wild west shows and circuses of the late 1800s. The effect is both chilling and funny.

The few photographs
of Ghengis Khan that
are known to exist
date from the Barnum &
Bailey years & show him
standing either before
a backdrop of The Great Wall
or outside a circus tent
made up to resemble
a yurt.

If wonder is not seeing strange things for the first time but seeing familiar things as if for the first time, then Mark Young's poems are indeed wonderful.


Nicholas Downing (not his real name) was born in Chicago, Illinois. He lived for many years in Minneapolis and for many months in Santa Fe, as well as southern Florida and northern Scotland. He has worked in cubicles and corner offices, washed dishes and wiped kindergarteners' noses. His interests include the shapes of things, the origins of things, and the sounds of things. He lives in northern New Jersey and works in Manhattan, fixing broken things. His work can be found in print in The First Hay(na)ku Anthology, and online at the Otolith. His blog (currently on hiatus) can be found at


Post a Comment

<< Home