Al Young

1939 –

Poet and novelist Al Young was born on May 31, 1939, in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. He attended the University of Michigan and received his BA from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1969.

Young’s volumes of poetry include Something About the Blues: An Unlikely Collection of Poetry (Sourcebooks MediaFusion, 2008); The Sound of Dreams Remembered: Poems 1990–2000 (Creative Arts Book Company, 2001), which won an American Book Award; and Dancing: Poems (Corinth, 1969), which won the Joseph Henry Jackson Award. He is also the author of multiple novels, as well as the American Book Award-winning memoir Bodies and Soul: Musical Memoirs (Creative Arts Book Company, 1981).

Young has also served as the editor of numerous anthologies, such as African American Literature: A Brief Introduction and Anthology (HarperCollins College Publishers, 1995) and Yardbird Lives! (Grove Press, 1978), with Ishmael Reed. Young’s own work has also been widely anthologized and translated into many languages.

Of Young’s writing, Jazz scholar Ted Gioia has said, “Al Young was a treasure of the Bay Area cultural scene…. In fact, you couldn’t find a better role model. Every encounter I had with him was an inspiring one.”

Among Young’s numerous honors and awards are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship and a Fulbright Fellowship. 

In the 1970s and 1980s, respectively, Young cofounded the journals the Yardbird Reader and Quilt with the poet and novelist Ishmael Reed. Young also lectured in creative writing at numerous colleges and universities. In 2005, he was appointed the poet laureate of California.

Al Young died on April 17, 2021, in Concord, California.