Dear Darkness

Dear Darkness

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by Kevin Young

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Delivered in Young’s classic bluesy tone, this powerful collection of poems about the American family, smoky Southern food, and the losses that time inevitably brings “bristles with life, nerve and, best of all, wit” (San Francisco Chronicle).


Delivered in Young’s classic bluesy tone, this powerful collection of poems about the American family, smoky Southern food, and the losses that time inevitably brings “bristles with life, nerve and, best of all, wit” (San Francisco Chronicle).

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Young is a fluent and bold interpreter of American culture and attitude, writing shrewd blues and droll lyrics that upend and undo catchphrases, familiar figures, and down-home habits.” —Booklist
Publishers Weekly

Perhaps the most prominent African-American poet of his generation, the prolific Young (For the Confederate Dead) begins his sixth book, which gathers sets of independent short poems-some very funny, some heartbreaking, almost all in deftly enjambed, uncommonly various lines-with evocations of his childhood, at once cozy and surrounded by half-secret threats: "Back/ in the day, my mother cut my afro/ every few months, bathroom layered/ with headlines proclaiming the world's end." Young then launches into odes to foods, many (but not all) of them from African-American traditions: "I know you're the blues/ because loving you/ may kill me," says "Ode to Pork." Other work finds lessons in country and country-rock music ("On Being the Only Black Person at the Johnny Paycheck Concert"). For all the humor, and all the autobiography, in this big book, Young digs deepest and sounds most powerful when he returns to the unlucky, unlovely, generalized personae of blues, who become in his hands at once a source of energy and a means for elegy: "Let me be what/ dust has to be, settling// over everything," he says in the bluesy "Lullaby," "& I promise to dream// of new houses & old/ loves no longer." (Sept.)

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Library Journal

National Book Award finalist Young (Jelly Roll) energizes the poems in his latest collection with subtle and not-so-subtle references to songs as well as to biblical passages. The book's title alludes to Simon and Garfunkle's "The Sounds of Silence" (1965), which was partly inspired by the assassination of JFK. Occasioned by the death of Young's father, these poems muse on the disconnections of life, generally using free association with religious, historical, and racial undertones, though there are a few list poems. Divided into several sections, this book asks the question, How does losing a parent affect one's view of life and even of one's deepest self? In answer, Young recounts scenes from his own childhood as well as his father's illness, death, funeral procession, and bereavement dinner. Reminiscent of Marc Connelly's play, "The Green Pastures," the final section contains a series of informal odes to various foods that would be found in a picnic. Ultimately, the collection effectively becomes an exercise in soul-searching even as it eulogizes Young's father. Highly recommended for all libraries.
—Diane Scharper

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

EulogyTo allow silenceTo admit it in usalways movingJust pastsenses, the darknessWhat swallows usand we live amongstWhat lives amongst us*These grim anchorsThat brief sanctitythe seaCast quite farwhen you seek—in your hats blackand kerchiefs—to bury me*Do not weepbut once, and a longtime thenThereafter eat tillyour stomach spills overNo more! you’ll crytoo full for your eyesto leak*The words will wait*Place me in a plainpine box I have beenfor years buildingIt is splintersnot silverIt is filled of hair*Even the tonguesof bells shall still*You who will bearmy body alongSpirit me into the sixDo not startleat its lack of weightHow lightI shall be releasedWhat we lovewill leave usor is itwe leavewhat we love,I forget—Today, bellyfull enoughto walk the blockafter all weektoo coldoutside to smile—I think of you, warmin your underground roomreading the bookof bone. It’s hard going—your body a deadlanguage—I’ve begunto feel, if nothope then whatcomes just after—or before—Let’s not call itregret, butthis weight,or weightlessness,or justplain waiting.The ice wantingagain water.The streams of two planesa cross fading.I was so busytelling you this I forgotto mention the sky—how in the duskits steely edgeshave just begun to rust.Ode to BoudinYou are the chewing gumof God. You are the reasonI know that skinis only that, holdsmore than it meets.The heart of you is somethingI don’t quite getbut don’t want to. Evena fool like me can seeyour brokenbeauty, the wayout in this world where mostthings disappear, driveninto ground, you are groundalready, & like riceyou rise. Drunken deacon,sausage’s half-brother,jambalaya’s baby mama,you bring me backto the beginning, to where things liveagain. Homemade saviour,you fed me the daymy father sat under flowerswhite as the gloves of pallbearerstossed on his bier.Soon, hands will lower himinto ground richerthan even you.For now, root of allremembrance, your thick chainsets me spinning, thinkingof how, like the small,perfect, possible, silent soulyou spill outlike music, my daddydead, or grief,or both—afterward his sistersmy aunts dancingin the yard to a car radiotuned to zydecobeneath the pecan trees.

Meet the Author

Kevin Young is the author of five previous collections of poetry. The recipient of many honors and awards, including the Paterson Poetry Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship, he is currently the Atticus Haygood Professor of English and Creative Writing and curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University in Atlanta.

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Dear Darkness 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago