Book review: We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough by Mike Young

We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough
 by Mike Young, Publishing Genius Press, 2010
,, ISBN 978-0-9820813-7-2

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 is a writer, editor, and student. His fiction has appeared in such publications as New Wave Vomit, The Legendary, and Sleep. Snort. Fuck. among others. He is the Founder and Editor of the online literary journal (Short) Fiction Collective, works as the Noir Fiction Editor for Voices From The Garage, and is a staff member of the online literary journal jmww. This is his first book review for jmww.

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