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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 took poetry workshops 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), 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 (Steerforth1995), selected for the National Poetry Series and winner of the Zacharis First Books Award from Ploughshares.

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 lives in Boston and Atlanta.

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The Dry Spell

Kevin Young, 1970
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 had crowed
his name, clearing
an ashy throat
pulling on long
wooly underwear
to make him sweat

even more. The fields have gone
long enough without water
he liked to say, so can I
and when he returned
pounds heavier
from those thirsty fields
he was even cooler
losing each soaked
woolen skin
to the floor, dropping
naked rain in his
wife’s earthen arms.

From The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, edited by Nikky Finney. Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Young. Reprinted with permission of the University of Georgia Press.

From The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, edited by Nikky Finney. Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Young. Reprinted with permission of the University of Georgia Press.

Kevin Young

Kevin Young

Poet, Kevin Young states that his poetry is influenced by the works of poets Langston Hughes, John Berryman, and Emily Dickinson

by this poet

poem
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
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
HAVENT HEARD FROM YOU IN AGES STOP LOVE YOUR
LATEST SHOW STOP THIS NO PHONE STUFF IS FOR BIRDS
LIKE YOU STOP ONCE SHOUTED UP FROM STREET ONLY

RAIN AND YOUR ASSISTANT ANSWERED STOP DO YOU
STILL SLEEP LATE STOP DOES YOUR PAINT STILL COVER
DOORS STOP FOUND A SAMO TAG COPYRIGHT HIGH

ABOVE A STAIR STOP NOT SURE HOW