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In this jaunty and intimate collection, Kevin Young invents a language as shimmying and comic, as low-down and high-hearted, as the music from which he draws inspiration. With titles such as “Stride Piano,” “Gutbucket,” and “Can-Can,” these poems have the sharp completeness of vocalized songs and follow a classic blues trajectory: praising and professing undying devotion (“To watch you walk / cross the room in your black / corduroys is to see / civilization start”), only to end up lamenting the loss of love (“No ...
In this jaunty and intimate collection, Kevin Young invents a language as shimmying and comic, as low-down and high-hearted, as the music from which he draws inspiration. With titles such as “Stride Piano,” “Gutbucket,” and “Can-Can,” these poems have the sharp completeness of vocalized songs and follow a classic blues trajectory: praising and professing undying devotion (“To watch you walk / cross the room in your black / corduroys is to see / civilization start”), only to end up lamenting the loss of love (“No use driving / like rain, past / where you at”). As Young conquers the sorrow left on his doorstep, the poems broaden to embrace not just the wisdom that comes with heartbreak but the bittersweet wonder of triumphing over adversity at all.
Sexy and tart, playfully blending an African American idiom with traditional lyric diction, Young’s voice is pure American: joyous in its individualism and singing of the self at its strongest.
Finalist for the 2003 National Book Award, Poetry
Quite difficult, belief.
Quite terrible, faith
that the night, again,
you a running mate–
that we are of the elect
& have not yet found out. That the tide
still might toss us up another–what eyes
& stars, what teeth!
such arms, alive–
someone we will, all night, keep. Not
just these spiders that skitter & cobweb,
share my shivering bed.
You, rare as Georgia snow. Falling
The cold spell that catches
us by surprise.
The too-early blooms,
tricked, gardenias blown about,
circling wind. Green figs.
Nothing stays. I want to watch you walk
the hall to the cold tile bathroom—all
night, a lifetime.
**Click here to send this poem as an animated ecard:
Lover you leave me autumn, tilling, a man
tending his yard,
or one not even
his own. Outskirts of town a farmer
one-armed, walks his fields into fire—my neighbor
on his knees with a razor trims his lawn. Next door
I am in the pines—
grass thirsting, and up
to here in weeds—
I have tried to forget—
nothing works. Let
the birds rabbits termites have the run
of the place, the worms,
I will take them in
"Elegy, Niagara Falls"
for Bert King, d. 1996
Here snow starts but does not stick—stay—
is not enough to cover the bare thaw—
Grief is the god that gets us—
good—in the end—
Here—churches let out
early—in time to catch the lunch special—at my local
even the bus boy has your
face. And still having heard some days later you
I haven't caught sight—day
|Rhythm & Blues||11|
|Song of Smoke||46|
|Country (& Western)||79|
|Disaster Movie Theme Music||84|
|Every Day Since||107|
|The Television We Bought||107|
|Soon I'll Thank You||108|
|Sometimes I Peel Like the Stargazers||109|
|When I Said I Didn't Mind||109|
|There are No More Saints||111|
|I Love You the Way a Liar Lovls||111|
|These Days So Hot You Forget||113|
|Song of Sowing||148|
|Song of Solstice||168|
|Elegy, Niagara Falls||188|