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Jake Young’s All I Wanted is grounded in the poet’s beginnings in multicultural California and in particular social situations, both of which he connects with place, nature, and the body. He reaches back to the speech act’s origins, its physicality, to what poetry is, coming as it does from “fragrances” of plants we gathered from the start, and not being able to “help / but name what we collect… / we learned to speak.” Young takes on the mantle of his exquisite capacity for speech, time-traveling from human inception to the Anthropocene age, reminding us that the ecosystems’ destruction is our own. The speaker implicates the smallest things in daily life, the egg yolk “bleeding / sustenance in this routine / that’s killing me.” Though loss permeates his vision, it would be a mistake to think that Young doesn’t revel in nature’s majesty, sublimity, and simplicity. “The black-eyed Susans / turn to the sun. A wild yellow.” I read this magnificent and smart book paradoxically, with an urgency tempered by the desire to luxuriate in every line on every page. Jake Young’s All I Wanted is all I want in poetry.
Here is a volume of poems boasting the perfect combination of bitter, sweet, salty and sour. Always firmly rooted in the tangible, Jake Young’s All I Wanted uses this grounding as a springboard to examine complex philosophical ideas. Big picture questions about life, memory, love, and death all commingle alongside Young’s deft use of the natural world. The delicate beauty of this collection will astound you, as it did me, but fear not. Whether he’s drinking beer with buddies, contemplating his parents’ death, or describing the California wildfires, Jake Young’s divine poems will, like the stars in “Old Soul,” “burn so hot my light / might shine across the universe / and last long after / I’ve been extinguished.”
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