Pamplemousse: Why do you mention Dale Earnhardt often?
Mike Young: For some reason, Dale Earnhardt is this mythical figure in my head. I was maybe fourteen when he died.
Dale Earnhardt was big, the Joe Montana, the Michael Jordan of racing. I remember when he won in 1998, the Daytona 500, my dad and I were so excited, and my mom asked why, and we couldnâ€™t explain it, you know?
When he died in 2001, I think itâ€™s the most epic, Shakespearean thing thatâ€™s ever happened in American sports. It would be like Michael Jordan hitting the last shot, game seven, then just dying.
It seemed so surprising that he could die. It was one of those moments.
Pamplemousse: What are your three favorite things youâ€™ve read in the last year?
MY: Iâ€™m going to forget something really good Iâ€™m sure, but some things that come to mind are this dude named Mark Richard, and people had been telling me to read him for years, and Iâ€™d never gotten around to it. He is like, amazing. Heâ€™s this Southern writer, and has got a story collection called â€œThe Ice at the Bottom of the World,â€ and thereâ€™s this one story in there called â€œHer Favorite Story,â€ which is an amazing, amazing story. It really made me excited about fiction again, and stories.
Another thing is this book of poems by this dude named Tim Earley, and the book is called â€œPoems Descriptive of Rural Life and Landscapes,â€ which isnâ€™t a great title, but itâ€™s a reference to this old English poet named John Clare. [Earleyâ€™s] poems are sort of southern voiced in a way, but not just southern, they have this sort of really baroque monologues, with Biblical language and it feels like fireworks.
Pamplemousse: Why do you use the Tumblr name Dragonfly on a Dog Chain?
MY: Thereâ€™s this poet named Frank Stanford, whoâ€™s this poet from Arkansas in the 70â€™s. Frank Stanford has this line, â€œthe strange country of childhood, like a dragonfly on a long dog chain.â€ Itâ€™s really amazing. Heâ€™s such an amazing poet.
Pamplemousse: What are some ways a literary journal can be awesome?
MY: I think the main way that a magazine could be really awesome is by picking one sort of thing to be really good at, and be really good at that thing, and having it be really specific, and not trying to be good at everything.
Pamplemousse: What story are you most in love with from your book â€œLook! Look! Feathers?â€
MY: Itâ€™s funny because that book came out four years ago and the oldest story is maybe eight years old, and its changed over time what I like the most. I really think â€œSnow You Know and Snow You Donâ€™tâ€ is the one I like the most. Itâ€™s the closest Iâ€™ve gotten to a story that feels like a really amazing cello.
Thereâ€™s a story at the end of the book called â€œRestart. Restore.â€ I donâ€™t know if I liked that one a lot compared to the others, but that one I like more and more as the years go by.
Pamplemousse: What obsesses you?
MY: I like that question. I think about that a lot. Thereâ€™s this philosopher named Emmanuel Levinas who was into this idea of the radical alterity of the other, which is you can never really know another person. Its hard to conceptualize that another person is as much a person as you, ultimately, and so that idea is very fascinating to me, and ways around that, and ways of dwelling in the acknowledgement of I know Iâ€™m never going to understand you, but weâ€™re going to communicate anyway, rather than like, oh yeah, we can relate to each other and we can understand each other, and sort of just pretending. If you start with the premise that weâ€™re never going to understand each other, what do you say next? That is a really interesting idea to me.
Iâ€™m also obsessed with this dish at this restaurant in Northampton, Massachusetts thatâ€™s beans and rice and fried eggs and fried banana on top; put some Sriracha on there.
Pamplemousse: What is the relationship between your poetry and prose? How do they feed off of each other?
MY: [Itâ€™s] collection versus coalescing.
Poetry is a way of always paying attention to the world for me; a way of letting the world stick to me instead of being anxious or estranged, just being present in the world.
Fiction and prose and flattening things out into sentences- I think of that as making stories out of everything; when it sort of comes time to stop moving through the world and sit around this campfire with other people, and then, what do you say, and how do you construct meaning, construct relations with others, I think [itâ€™s] through stories.
Interviewer: If you were a rock star, what would you band or performance name be?
MY: When I was in high school I played in punk bands and the one I played in the longest was â€œNot Yet Named,â€ which is totally a teenage punk band name. When I was in grad school I was in this band called â€œThe Cinnamon Urns.â€ Then another band I was going to start with a friend was called â€œCoconut Home Evening.â€