Dean Young was born Richard Young in Columbia, Pennsylvania, in 1955. In various interviews, Young comments that he identifies personally and poetically with being misunderstood, which is often an underlying theme of his poems. He spent a year in nursing school, but quickly changed majors, and received his B.A. in English in 1978 and an M.F.A. in 1984, both from Indiana University.
Shortly after finishing his Stegner Fellowship in 1988, Young published his first poetry collection, Design with X, which drew heavily from his nursing background. Although this collection shows moments of Young’s disjunctive surrealism, the tone of the collection is more solemn than that of his subsequent books. In his third collection, Strike Anywhere, Young’s poems began to fully exhibit his trademark brand of absurdist humor.
Young divides his time between Austin, Texas, and Berkeley, California, where he lives with his wife, novelist Cornelia Nixon. While Young taught at Loyola University in Chicago, his style grew more expansive, esoteric, and humorous while maintaining a resonant sense of the human condition. By 2005, Young had become a member of the permanent faculty at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. It is at this time that his poems began delving more frequently into themes of family and mortality, as a result of his father’s death as well as his own health issues. Young has taught at the low residency M.F.A. program at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.