This piece is apart of 12th Street Journal‘s series, “Crisis Expressive,”which focuses on why and how we, as humans, creatively express during personal and public moments of crisis. If you have a story to express, we would be exulted to read […]
Some of you may know that my title comes from the 1976 film Network. The movie exposes the media’s failure to report how Americans really feel during times of war and upheaval and what they […]
Mike Young lives up to his last name, and is more prolific than most. He often wears cowboy shirts.
12th Street: You told me something this summer that has stuck out in my mind: Some people write poetry when they should be writing country songs. Can you talk more about this?
Mike Young: The country song is a terrific format for a certain kind of emotional distillation. Like if you want to write about dead people, failed dreams, steel wool, alcohol, ghosts. If you want shifting narratives and wordplay. Self-deprecation, even. Country music has all that in spades. And I’m not even talking about good country here. Just mainstream country like you’d see on GAC. Go listen to “Honky-Tonk Badonkadonk” if you think L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry doesn’t exist on the tobacco farm. Tony Tost can speak much better about this (and less glibly, probably), but I am totally not kidding.
What I really meant when I talked to you, though, was probably that there is an undercurrent of honky-tonk emotional angst sort of tucked away, embarrassed, beneath the flashy crust of today’s popular, cutesy, post-avant, soft surrealist poetry. What if these poets just sat down and wrote a dumb country song about how much they miss high school? Or, like, how much they love beer in the afternoon? Eighty percent of the poets I know love beer in the afternoon. So do country stars. What I’m asking for, I think, is more unabashed sentimentality, in both poetry and the afternoon. DFW is right: irony has pervaded/perverted culture. Let Dr. Pepper make their sly, ironic commercials; if you really want to be subversive and shit, acknowledge sentimentality and “take it back.”