Black Maria

Overview

Kevin Young follows his acclaimed exploration of the blues in Jelly Roll with another playful riff on a vital art form, giving us a film noir in verse. Black Maria–the title is a slang term for a police van as well as a hearse–is a twisting tale of suspicion, passion, mystery, and the city. Young channels the world of detective movies, picking up its lingo and dark glamour in five “reels” of poetry–the adventures of a “soft-boiled” private eye, known as A.K.A. Jones, and an ingenue turned femme fatale, Delilah ...
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Overview

Kevin Young follows his acclaimed exploration of the blues in Jelly Roll with another playful riff on a vital art form, giving us a film noir in verse. Black Maria–the title is a slang term for a police van as well as a hearse–is a twisting tale of suspicion, passion, mystery, and the city. Young channels the world of detective movies, picking up its lingo and dark glamour in five “reels” of poetry–the adventures of a “soft-boiled” private eye, known as A.K.A. Jones, and an ingenue turned femme fatale, Delilah Redbone, who’s come to town from down south (“Mama bent till dark / tending rows to send / Me to school . . . I wanted / To head on & hitch . . . strike it / Big”). We follow Jones and Delilah through a maze of aliases and ambushes, sex and suspicions, fast talk and hard luck, in Shadowtown where noir characters abound. The Killer, The Gunsel, The Hack, The Director, The Champ, and The Snitch are among the local luminaries and beautiful losers who mingle with Jones and his elusive lady as they stalk one another through the scenes of the poet’s dazzling “treatment.” Charming, funky, bleak, humorous, picaresque, and full of pathos, Black Maria is brimming with the originality and stark lyricism we have come to expect from this remarkable poet.

When we met her first request:
Got a light?
*
I only had dark so gave her that instead.
*
Ashtray full of butts
& maybes.
*
The sound of her heels down the hall to me means reveille.

(from “Stills”)

Click on the poem titles below to hear Kevin Young read from Black Maria.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Tough and unlucky in a rainy city or on a Hollywood back lot, poetic detective A.K.A. Jones seeks answers, dodges bullets, and drowns his sorrows as he pursues the alluring and mysterious Delilah Redbones in Young's fourth volume, a book-length sequence of linked short poems grounded in film noir scenarios and in the short, bluesy lines Young has made his signature. In just ten years since his debut, Young has become a leading poet of his generation: the splendid Jelly Roll (2003), whose poems of erotic devotion and heartbreak imitated an encyclopedic range of musical styles, rightly landed on many year-end best-of lists. The saga of Jones, Redbones and their quirky, mostly anonymous supporting cast ("The Gunsel," "The Boss," "The Snitch") confirms Young's mastery of his syncopated verse line, his way with witty rhyme, and his facility with his chosen genre. Yet the many lyrical asides and point-of-view changes make any plot hard to grasp, a problem alleviated, but not quite solved, by prose summaries which introduce each of Young's five sections (called "reels"). And Young's devotion to film noir atmosphere here makes it hard for the tone to vary from poem to poem: in visits to Las Vegas, the sagebrush West, even the set of a science-fiction film, their beat-up, hard-done-by gumshoe sounds more or less the same. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
National Book Award finalist Young uses the language of detective movies to create another breathtaking experiment in verse. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375710506
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/20/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 960,265
  • Product dimensions: 5.53 (w) x 8.97 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin Young is the author of three previous collections of poetry and the editor of Library of America’s John Berryman: Selected Poems, Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets anthology Blues Poems, and Giant Steps: The New Generation of African American Writers. His most recent book, Jelly Roll: A Blues, was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and won the Paterson Poetry Prize. A recent Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, Young is currently Ruth Lilly Professor of Poetry at Indiana University.

Kevin Young’s Jelly Roll is available in Knopf paperback.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents


Honeymoon Rain     1
Stone Angels     45
Low Noon     87
Alibi Saloon     131
Hemlock Lane     181
End Titles     237
Acknowledgments     241
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