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About this poet

Kevin Young was born 1970 in Lincoln, Nebraska. He received his BA from Harvard University in 1992, where he studied poetry with Lucie Brock-Broido and Seamus Heaney, and his MFA in creative writing from Brown University in 1996.

His poetry collections include Blue Laws: Selected and Uncollected Poems, 1995-2015 (Knopf, 2016); Book of Hours (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), winner of the 2015 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, given for the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States each year; Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011); Dear Darkness: Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2008); For the Confederate Dead (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007); Black Maria (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005); Jelly Roll: A Blues (Alfred A. Knopf, 2003); To Repel Ghosts (Zoland Books, 2001), which was a finalist for the James Laughlin Award; and Most Way Home (Steerforth, 1995), selected for the National Poetry Series and winner of the Zacharis First Books Award from Ploughshares.

About Book of Hours, judge A. Van Jordan wrote:

As if walking through a gallery of grief, reverie, and transcendence, Kevin Young’s Book of Hours exemplifies what poetry can do in the world when language works at its full power. The poems in this collection hold emotion taut on each line while allowing for the nimbleness of language to drape over them, bringing tension between the heart and the mind, as Young consistently surprises us with profound elegance. Kevin Young is a master poet who has offered us a transformative curation of life, death and the ways in which we deal with it all in Book of Hours.

Young has edited several anthologies, including The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing (Bloomsbury, 2010), Blues Poems (Everyman's Library, 2003), and Giant Steps: The New Generation of African American Writers (2000), as well as a selected volume of poems by John Berryman for the Library of America. He is also the author of The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (Graywolf Press, 2012), winner of the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize and the PEN Open Award.

About Young's work, the poet Lucille Clifton has said, "This poet's gift of storytelling and understanding of the music inherent in the oral tradition of language re-creates for us an inner history which is compelling and authentic and American."

Young's awards and honors include a Stegner Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford University, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. He has taught at the University of Georgia and at Indiana University. Currently, he is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Creative Writing and English and curator of Literary Collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University. He lives in Atlanta.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
Blue Laws: Selected and Uncollected Poems, 1995-2015 (Knopf, 2016)
Book of Hours (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014)
Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011)
Dear Darkness: Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2008)
For the Confederate Dead (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007)
Black Maria (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005)
Jelly Roll: A Blues (Alfred A. Knopf, 2003)
To Repel Ghosts (Zoland Books, 2001)
Most Way Home (Steerforth, 1995)

Prose
The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (Graywolf Press, 2012)

For the Confederate Dead

I go with the team also.
                       —Whitman

These are the last days
my television says. Tornadoes, more
rain, overcast, a chance

of sun but I do not
trust weathermen,
never have. In my fridge only

the milk makes sense—
expires. No one, much less
my parents, can tell me why

my middle name is Lowell,
and from my table
across from the Confederate

Monument to the dead (that pale
finger bone) a plaque
declares war—not Civil,

or Between
the States, but for Southern
Independence. In this café, below sea-

and eye-level a mural runs
the wall, flaking, a plantation
scene most do not see—

it's too much
around the knees, height
of a child. In its fields Negroes bend

to pick the endless white.
In livery a few drive carriages
like slaves, whipping the horses, faces

blank and peeling. The old hotel
lobby this once was no longer
welcomes guests—maroon ledger,

bellboys gone but
for this. Like an inheritance
the owner found it

stripping hundred years
(at least) of paint
and plaster. More leaves each day.

In my movie there are no
horses, no heroes,
only draftees fleeing

into the pines, some few
who survive, gravely
wounded, lying

burrowed beneath the dead—
silent until the enemy
bayonets what is believed

to be the last
of the breathing. It is getting later.
We prepare

for wars no longer
there. The weather
inevitable, unusual—

more this time of year
than anyone ever seed. The earth
shudders, the air—

if I did not know
better, I would think
we were living all along

a fault. How late
it has gotten . . .
Forget the weatherman

whose maps move, blink,
but stay crossed
with lines none has seen. Race

instead against the almost
rain, digging beside the monument
(that giant anchor)

till we strike
water, sweat
fighting the sleepwalking air.

Excerpted from For the Confederate Dead by Kevin Young Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Young. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Excerpted from For the Confederate Dead by Kevin Young Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Young. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Kevin Young

Kevin Young

Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1970, Kevin Young's poetry collections include Blue Laws: Selected and Uncollected Poems, 1995-2015 (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016) and Book of Hours (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014).

by this poet

poem
Waking early
with the warming house
my grandmother knew what to do
taking care not to wake
Da Da 		she cooked up a storm
in darkness 	adding silent spices
and hot sauce

to stay cool. She ate later, alone
after the children had been gathered
and made to eat
her red eggs. Da Da rose
late, long after
the roosters
poem
To allow silence
To admit it in us

always moving
Just past

senses, the darkness
What swallows us

and we live amongst
What lives amongst us

*

These grim anchors
That brief sanctity

the sea
Cast quite far

when you seek
—in your hats black

and kerchiefs—
to bury me

*

Do not weep
but once, and a long

time
poem

Lady, won’t you wait
out the hurricane

all night at my place—
we’ll take cover like

the lamps & I’ll
let you oil

my scalp. Please, I needs
a good woman’s hands

caught in my hair, turning
my knots to butter.

All night we’ll churn.
Dawn

will lean

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