poem index


Kevin Young

1970- , Lincoln , NE , United States
Printer-friendly version

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 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, 007); 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 is also the editor of the anthologies 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.

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 taught at the University of Georgia and at Indiana University. Currently, he is the Atticus Haygood Professor of English and Creative Writing and curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University. He splits his time between Boston and Atlanta.

by this poet

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


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.

will lean

I go with the team also.

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