About this poet

Born in West Palm Beach, Florida on August 10, 1972, Jake Adam York grew up in Gadsden, Alabama. He received a B.A. in English from Auburn University, and an MFA and PhD in creative writing and English literature from Cornell University.

His collections of poetry include Persons Unknown (Southern Illinois Press, 2010); A Murmuration of Starlings (Southern Illinois Press, 2008), which won the Colorado Book Award; and Murder Ballads (Elixir Press, 2005), which won the Elixir Prize.

About York and his poems, poet David Keplinger has said the following:

One evening years ago I heard Jake Adam York read from his first collection, Murder Ballads, in a crowded Denver church. He embodied in person what I can best call a gentle largess, a stirring, impeccable urgency. Jake was like his poetry, faithful to the subject of witness, a stern biographer of oppression and resilience, a studious angel borne on the wings of his art, which was song, song, song.

York was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Third Coast Poetry Prize, and a Colorado Book Award. He was an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Denver where he founded the university's Creative Writing Program, as well as the university's national literary journal, Copper Nickel.

Jake Adam York died suddenly on December 16, 2012, at the age of 40.

Letter Already Broadcast into Space

Jake Adam York, 1972 - 2012

                        —To Sun Ra, from Earth

You are not here,

you are not here
in Birmingham,
        where they keep your name,

not in Elmwood's famous plots
                or the monuments
of bronze or steel or the strew

        of change in the fountain
where the firehoses sprayed.

                In the furnaces, in the interchange sprawl
        that covers Tuxedo Junction,

in the shopping malls, I think,
                they've forgotten you,

the broadcast towers, the barbecues,

        the statue of the Roman god,
spiculum blotting out
                part of the stars.

To get it dark enough,
        I have to fold back
into the hills, into the trees

                where my parents
planted me, where the TV
        barely reaches and I drift

with my hand on the dial
                of my father's radio,

spinning, too, the tall antenna
        he raised above the pines.

I have to stand at the base

                of the galvanized
pole I can use as an azimuth
        and plot you in.

The hunter's belt is slung again,
                and you are there

in the pulse, in the light of
        Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka,

all your different names,

                you are there
in all the rearrangements
        of the stars.

                        Come down now,
come down again,

                like the late fall light
into the mounds along the creek,

        light that soaks like a flood
to show the Cherokee sitting upright
                underground, light

like the fire they imply.

        Come down now
into the crease the freight train
                hits like a piano's hammer

and make the granite hum
        beneath.

                        Come down now

as my hand slips from the dial,
                tired again of looking
for the sound of another way

        to say everything.

Come down now with your diction
                and your dictionary.

Come down, Uncle, come down
        and help me rise.

I have forgot my wings.

Copyright © 2011 by Jake Adam York. Used with permission of the author.

Jake Adam York

Jake Adam York

Born in 1972, Jake Adam York wrote three collections of poems and was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.

by this poet

poem

To Yusef Komunyakaa

When I rise from the bank
the water's slow as shadow
in my steps, thick as blood.
The whole river's secretive,
still, dark as roux
cooled in the skillet, as rank,
as sweet, ancient as catfish,
ancienter. The moon's
sifted light clouds rumor
to lilies or daffodils,
an egret on