Mike Young – 4AM has something to tell you, but it’s outside. The press has something to tell you they saw, but they always wait until it’s gone

Mike Young, We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough, Publishing Genius Press, 2010.

„Mike Young’s poetry is an absolute stunner. We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough streams one intricate, scenery chewing, note perfect, balletic, swervy, mind blowing composition after another. These may be nothing but great poems, but I can’t think of a paragraph anywhere that can match them for style or cover their emotional distance.“ - Dennis Cooper

We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough reveals the gestures & tics of common experience as portals to the sublime, the theoretical & the silly. These poems jumpcut like French New Wave & confide like a sinner, always trembling with energy, always trying to contain the tiltawhirl glamour of life & exploding.“ - Mathias Svalina

„We are all good says the book, says the poet. The poet Mike Young is not afraid of marionberries or MySpace, Nyquil, or Dunkin’ Donuts or KFC, or a crucifix on wheels, or Gillis Beukel or Martha Stewart or Minnie Mouse, or Cheetos or Craigslist, or breast milk or milk duds or Cool Whip, or NASCAR or MMORPGs, or a theory of radical alterity or The Decemberists or Barry Bonds, or Arkansas or Crescent City, California. Oh my god, he is not afraid of Chuckie Cheese! This is a reckless, fearless poet we’re meeting, and I think we should all wish him safe travels. He reminds me of Marcel Proust. He is that greedy and that good.“ - Dara Wier

„Mike Young’s first full-length poetry collection, We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough, is an absolute stunner. Young, who is also a regular contributor at HTMLGiant and co-edits NOO Journal and Magic Helicopter Press, has summoned all of his lyrical talents in this 80-page whirlwind of a book.
This fearless 24 year-old poet writes honestly about subjects ranging from Craigslist to The Decemberists to breast milk to NASCAR and everything in between. The poems, written mostly in free verse, are a mixture of concisely written observations and long-winded verbal assaults. The true value in this collection is Young’s ability to switch topics on a dime and not miss a beat.
If the barometer of a great poet is his ability to create an alternate reality so true that the reader is transported there upon opening the book than Young is a top-notch wordsmith with a bright future.
It’s been quite a long time since I’ve read a collection that combines both sheer quantity and elegant quality. Mike Young has succeeded in doing just that. There isn’t one single poem in the book that I would advise skipping over; you’d be doing yourself a disservice.
The lack of a central theme weaving together these poems actually serves as a challenge for the reader. Before reading this collection you must be willing to confront any preconceived notions you may have of what poetry is and what it should do. True poetry should make you think about things in a new way and leave you wanting more. Mike Young has accomplished that because by the end of the book I was left both intellectually stimulated and yearning for more. The challenge for the reader is complex because not only are Young’s topics wide ranging but also he manages to take the most seemingly everyday mundane thoughts and spin them into complex observations that show off his keen eye for detail.
Don’t get me wrong; Young isn’t one of these stuffy, pretentious poets who take themselves too seriously. In fact, he is just the opposite. It seems as though his youthful exuberance serves as far more than the launching point for a burst of spontaneous prose that jumps off the page and actually allows him to show off his more humorous side. The tightrope that he so delicately walks balancing both a sharp sense of wit and a decisive knack for sensitivity is on display in numerous individual pieces throughout the collection.
If asked to come up with a favorite poem or a single piece that defines the collection I’d be hard pressed to choose just one. Several lines, however, jump off the page upon first reading.
“Excuse me. You’ve parked in the towaway zone of
my confidence.”
“When you are near me, I am a confident paper boat
in a bathtub full of Kool-Aid, where I tilt in circles toward
the drain, which does not worry me, for I know that a wet
hand will reach up and carry me into the kitchen.”
Those are just a few. Honestly I could’ve just written the entire review using great lines from this collection but then why would you want to go out and buy the book?
The only thing that would make this collection better, in my opinion, is if there were more poems! I’m afraid that some potential readers may be put off by the author’s display, in the majority of his poems, of a young sensibility. My only fear is that the depth of his work might go underappreciated to some who get lost in his subject matter rather than focusing on the fact that he broaches such topics with a devastatingly mature voice and a wisdom that belies his age.
I’m definitely going to be looking forward to his next release of short stories by Word Riot Press in December to see if he can top this performance. As both a writer of fiction and poetry, Young has showcased all of his writing skills in this book. When asked about how writing fiction influences his approach to poetry he responded, “I feel like poems involve imagining you have a mouth in your brain, and stories involve maintaining eye contact with every body in the room.” Young has let that mouth loose on the public without ostracizing himself from anyone in the room with We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough.
This collection has renewed my confidence in the future of poetry while also making me feel jealous as a writer. I truly believe that all aspiring poets should view this book as required reading if they want to improve their craft.
My advice: GO AND BUY THIS BOOK! If you fail to then you’re taking the chance that you missed out on discovering one of the great new young American poets of this generation.“ - Patrick Trotti

„I am a scholar of, teacher of, student of, and writer of poetry. This constellation of identities means that when I pick up a new book of poetry, I turn into Robert fucking Langdon from the fucking Da Vinci Code: I look for correspondences, connections, patterns, “Symbology,” so that I can solve the book’s mystery and come up with a thesis clever enough to bring down the Catholic church. Mike Young’s We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough stumped me for a long time. There are no correspondences, there is no Symbology, there is just stuff and stuff and more stuff:
All the new bewilderment is about hay fever tablets.
In this it resembles the blind men running from the
elephant. In this it resembles nude appliance repair.
We’re pulled aside and told we’re loved, but listen:
the mustard gas has got to go. If I keep feeling this way
I will have to use a lot of emoticons.
The emoticons line is brilliant, but otherwise this passage is, well, kind of bewildering. The first line is intriguing and reads almost like a word-substitution game, but I can’t even imagine what it would mean to try to explain the “resemblances” noted in the second and third lines. I can make sense of the mustard gas as hyperbole, an apocalyptic version of “I love you, but lose the mustache,” but its relation to the earlier lines is utterly opaque.
My inner Robert Langdon was tearing his hair out until I told him to shut up already. This book is jam-packed with delightful moments, and it’s right and good and interesting that they’re moments instead of coy pieces of a picture-puzzle. “Dancing is just putting yourself on inside out.” “Oh, this is no cello analogy // you weepy motherfucker.“In 1954, the last documented case of / ‘real people’ buried a milkshake recipe / and two coupons for used boxing gloves / outside Sparks, Nevada.” This book is a riot of noise and joy and weirdness, and reminds us that life is full of interesting things.
But then suddenly, three-fourths of the way of through the book, my inner Langdon found the Cryptex. In case you’ve forgotten or repressed this movie (which I swear I saw only in the dollar theater and only because it was such a cultural phenomenon), allow me to remind you that the Cryptex was the little cylinder with symbols on it that operated like a bicycle-lock and opened up to contain some kind of scroll that helped Tom Hanks solve all the mysteries. My Cryptex to Young’s book is a prose poem called “Now You Try,” and it begins like this:
Your roommate has something to tell you about the sociology of chip brands. Driving has something to tell you about shivering. Your porch has something to tell you about your ex-girlfriend. Evolution has something to tell you about acne. Bea Arthur has something to tell you about drugs. Beaches have something to tell you about community. Your mom has something to tell you, sometimes. The post office has something to tell you about the rest of your life.
It goes on for quite awhile, and it gets weirder:
If you are lying in bed and there is a maple bonbon on your nightstand a little out of reach, how much and what kind of effort you employ through your body toward that bonbon has something to tell you about death. 4AM has something to tell you, but it’s outside. The press has something to tell you they saw, but they always wait until it’s gone. Watermelons have something smart to tell you. Breakfast has something to tell you about your friends. The Decemberists have something to tell you about Russian history — yeah, you and everybody else, dude.
And so on and so on. And suddenly it all seemed clear: it’s not just that this is a book full of weird stuff, it’s that it’s a book full of weird stuff that means stuff. Everything has something to tell you if you know how to listen, and this, I think, is part of what Young is trying to tell us. The title of this poem, “Now You Try,” not only references the title of the volume (correspondences! Symbology!), but it invites the reader into this enterprise. The “formula” of this poem becomes rapidly clear, and the reader is asked to make up similar statements of her own, to look around and figure out which objects are trying to speak.
One thing that’s striking about this volume is that over half the poems are dedicated to specific people. In those poems and elsewhere, moments of real tenderness shine through: “This feeling is called kiss me. This feeling is called hi.” “The word okay is like skydiving. / If I say swingsets, will you make it rain?” “Give me something to give into. / It will be weird. It will be so weird.” These flashes of quirky sincerity put me in mind of Frank O’Hara, whose name I actually scribbled in the margins when I read these lines: “My moments of inward congratulation are / offset by meals alone in pants I really like.” If O’Hara is a patron saint of this volume, it is because he and Young both seem to be giving you a sidelong glance, revealing the marvels of the everyday while checking to make sure that nobody is taking themselves too seriously.
So if you like weirdness — if you like Craigslist, Leonard Cohen, and stray flamingos — if you hate the damn Da Vinci Code — you owe it to yourself to pick up We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough and to ready yourself for Mike Young’s forthcoming fiction collection, Look! Look! Feathers.“ - Erin McNellis

„Mike Young’s We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough reads at first like something disjointed, with lines and images that seem to all bleed into something mostly nonsensical, that leave you wondering the why of what they might be trying to tell you or convey, if they’re trying to convey anything at all beyond sound or silly, because there are poets these days who do only that and you’re not particularly partial to that, you like to communicate with the text.
And, just when you’re about to possibly put down the book, you read:
Amateur opera singers do their own makeup.
The higher you go, the more your face gets
installed. Then it dries and waits for your
approval. I keep getting submitted to
withdrawal. We all say things none of us
believe, like “gift economy.” Or “wait.”
It maybe hurts a little, and if not you at least stop to appreciate the image of installing a face. While appreciating, somewhere far back in your head recalls a title from earlier in the book, “You Can Know That Wait Means Stay,” how it makes those last two words take on a new meaning, a new weight, and you wonder about the earlier poem, this permission granted.
You turn back a few pages and read “You Can Know…” again and this time it reads as an ache and a silence, and there it is—a Rube Goldberg machine in the words and pages, these small and big parts, some silly and some more obviously utile, all working for a greater whole—this gathering of attempts at connection, and just as in life some of it falls short, some of it is perhaps a little close to Young’s brainspace for us to really get the exact object or event or maybe even emotion he’s trying to convey, but then there are these shining moments (“Keep the lights on through all loss. Don’t forget: / brilliant also means that none of us can see.”) where you take Young’s title at its word and try just a bit harder.
You try so hard you think maybe you’re reaching for something not there, but you go ahead and let yourself reach, let yourself go a little into a space more like where Young may have been while seeing the world and writing it into these poems, and ripcord!
You’re off and feeling, and there’s ache and there’s joy and there’s anger and laughter, and you want to shake Young’s hand and call him Mike instead and buy him a gin and tonic and laugh balls.
You begin turning back pages and rereading some poems you thought were maybe just simple strings of sounds and where before there was only mouth cartwheels, now meaning and conveyance! and he’s begging you, Mike is actually begging you, “Please listen I have something to tell you. Please tell me I have something.” And you listen.“ - Christopher Newgent

„In the poem “Money”, Young states “They know that being amusing is good because it makes you feel good and feeling is everything...” This line best summarizes the poems in We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough. There is a sly, yet comfortably awkward self awareness in these poems. The poems that make up this book are a collection of experiences that anyone can relate to, but what sets them apart from most contemporary poetry is they lack overwhelming self-indulgence. They're also really quite fun to read.
The poems in the book are of their time—the immediate present. The lines flow, the images shift with such fluidity and nonchalance they fit perfectly in the technological daydream we live in. But Young also borrows a style and use of imagery that recalls the cultural heroes of the 50's and 60's. Especially “Mindy the Famous Divebomber Visits the Thrift Store We All Care For”, which reads like a delightfully absurd short film treatment.
This is one of the better collections of poetry I've read this year.“ – Casey Mensing

In ten words (no more, no less), describe “We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough.”
- Lonely astronaut face-to-face feelings that flip language pancakes by flashlight.
Within the Theory of Radical Alterity, what is the first truth?
- This comes form the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, who says philosophy should be more about the knowledge of love and less the love of knowledge (which is the literal translation of the word). “Radical alterity” means the irreducible, at-the-root Otherness of the Other (“alterity” means otherness). In other words, one of our deep-seated duhs is that other people are fundamentally not knowable and cannot be made into objects of the self. We can’t live inside someone else’s feelings. But we can have face-to-face encounters with them, which is pretty terrific, and we can start dialogue from this point, accepting the Other’s mystery/unknowability/whatever you want to call it, and going from there. Martin Buber influenced a lot of Levinas’s thinking, and Buber talks about how we don’t even really exist except in relationships, in meetings. All of this is pretty heady stuff, but gets translated in the book into half-nelsons and sheet forts.
Take a second. You don’t know what is going to happen next, but who is going to be there?
- The poem that’s from, “You Can Know That Wait Means Stay,” was written for Carolyn Z, who is a human carrot cake. But I guess I like to vainly think it’s portable, not for me to use with somebody else, but for elses to use elsewise and ever. One of the best parts of being in love is a certain kind of knowing who you’re with and giving up the knowing of everything else, and I think it’s interesting to recognize that feeling with the person you’re in love with and with everybody who might be recognizing their own love.
At what port does the U.S.S. Bitchface reside?
- Probably the port where I eat burnt chili by myself at some hour that seems the furthest from any sun.
On the cover, what is the single arm dripping?
- Glitter, pop rocks, multi-colored candy corn. Maybe when you go around life collecting all your receipts and movie stubs and Post-Its, and then you accidentally leave a bunch of crayons in your pocket, and all your spare useless paper is ruined, so you chop it into confetti and use it to salt your radishes.
What will you never do, but lie about?
- You can say and mean and truly mean and still know you don’t. Mean, I mean. Which sometimes makes it kind of terrifying to say anything.
Is The Missionary your favorite positron?
- What I like are mirror neurons. Let’s go watch football and wince. Last week I got into an argument, kind of, about mirror neurons as the basis via cognitive science for empathy, but I think we just believed in competing mysticisms we didn’t want to tell the truth about. All I know is I ate a burger and she gave me a business card.
“Gift Economy” – why do you not believe in it?
- I think I do, now. I think I am just worried about the seething niceties of gifthood, the thank-you notes and so forth.
What is the one thing that can tell you about love?
- Love is a recursive function.
What was the last secret you told when you kissed a neck?
- When you tell someone a really good secret, it is like finding a colony of bats inside your chest and rooting them out. In other words, there is surprise and a black mass.
“There will be things you save to tell someone that you’ll never get to tell at all.” Here’s a chance for you, fire away.
- Maybe what that line means is more about the someone than the saving. There are visions and versions of people we wait for that we decide are the only people that fit certain parts of who we are. This is probably not true, but that doesn’t stop anybody, I don’t think. In other news, the dude across the way from me right now has a Q-Bert tattoo and a mason jar full of mozzarella balls. His friend just said “I think you imagine it as a like a disturbance in water. Or, like, a thickness.”
In ten words (no more, no less), describe your next project.
- A letter of YouTube account cancellation that bleeds and frets.“ – Interview with BL Pawelek


Mike Young: ...My book is a book of poems. Most of them are pretty talky. They're like the things you'd say if death involved sitting in a hot tub on a space shuttle, getting wet in the post-death gravity, hashing out the things you wish you'd said to people walking away. Another way to put this is from a new thing about singing, which is not in the book: "Singing may also be catalogued as Christmas underwater
 / and hiking slowly along the railroad ties with the best candy bar / but no home." I wish I could co-dream with people, but I can't, so I write these poems. There's a quote from Martin Buber in the front: "When they sang of what they had thus named, they still meant You." The other day, I was talking to myself in the shower, and I concluded by saying "a sublime cooperative knowing-of-absurdity that manifests as mutually blissful co-ignorance of that absurdity's terms." It's nice to take showers with a lot of people at once, but if you're not doing that right now, you could read poems instead. Here are some things that are in We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough's poems: scout ants; peanut butter knees; a scarecrow with a lantern in his chest; a mattress factory; someone saying "I want to sell the notions of May on eBay" to a friend he hasn't seen in a while; pissing on a cell phone charger; old man socks; hicks on condors; God's wheelchair; amateur opera singers; FDR's diary; carrier pigeons; huckleberries and hyperthyroids; coconut milk and rhetorical questions; a comparison of the new bewilderment and the old bewilderment; each happy person ever; an essay about money; a kitten in a cedar; dandruff teeth; and the alphabetization of home movies by flashlight.“ – Interview at Orange Alert


Mike Young makes moonbats in your brain

Poems from the book

Mike Young: Is This a Poem For the Year 2219?

Mike Young, Look! Look! Feathers, Word Riot Press, 2010.

“Mike Young is young and his song is real. This book is full of comedy, radiance and devastation.” – Sam Lipsyte

“I believe in Mike Young. I will follow his stories wherever they lead me. They are so fresh and full of the weirdest Americana. If Mike Young were a cult leader, I’d drink his Kool-Aid and it would feel electric.” – Kevin Sampsell

“Equal parts stylist and storyteller, Mike Young chronicles the moribund world with a cool voice and a big heart. Wise, engaged, suspenseful, and exuberantly melancholy, his fiction forges a holy path between the Cliffs of Irony and the Swamp of Sentimentality. Here is a newfangled old-fashioned writer whose stories both dazzle and nourish. What a boon, what a bright talent.”
– Chris Bachelder

“A fascinating book with lots of stuff in it, all the best stuff, funny stuff. Mike Young writes like the guy in the Viagra ad, the one whose erection is way past its four hours. He’s headed for the emergency room now. Go with him. See what happens.” – Frederick Barthelme
Mike Young, MC Oroville’s Answer­ing Machine, Transmission Press, 2009.

"Yr not dreaming. Yes, number 11 in the fantastic Transmission lineage is here. However, you may feel like yr dreaming when reading this book. Yr head might lift off from yr shoulders and you better hope you've got some kind of tether. Otherwise, yr head, bouncing around the stratosphere, might end up in one of Mike's poems. And, also, at least as far as I know, you probably wouldn't survive. Good luck with that.
So, you see, what you got yrself here is a fine book of poetry. Feel that plush poetry-y seating. Notice the spacious back seat. Smell that new poetry smell. And that engine. Holy smokes, does that engine v-room like the dickens. I do believe this is something you could live with a very long time and never want to trade in. What do you say?"

Here's a poem from MC OROVILLE'S ANSWERING MACHINE...

DO YOU LIKE MY SUNGLASSES?

Last seen in the junkyard on a yellow bike. Seen burning his mouth on the Keg Room pizza. Seen bearded at the punk shows in the autoshop lot, where I met a girl who made me lick the rain off the chainlinks and stop talking up a shitstorm. Some say MC Oroville moved south to work at a thrift store in the East Bay. Reprezent! It's not like we won't wait. We sell our water south, but the State keeps the money. In Scoops, the chicken mango dog tastes like the chicken Mediterranean dog. But we're trying. If someone invents a machine to bring murals alive, we will need new brochures. I bought Wayne the river for his birthday, and he promised to build a basement beneath it, in case MC Oroville needs to crash real low. At Staples, a drunk in a blue sundress watches the punks make flyers. She asks them if they like her sunglasses, her John Lennon sunglasses! But they are only the Wild Wild West sunglasses Burger King gave away in 1999. Then the punks split, and the lady photocopies her ID—some dispute with the law, the landlord. After she's evicted, she writes a letter. To my delicious punks, she writes. Kick out the links, eat the rain back to where it starts, find somebody's hair and set that hair on fire.

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