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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.

His volumes of poetry included Something About the Blues: An Unlikely Collection of Poetry (Sourcebooks MediaFusion, 2008), The Sound of Dreams Remembered: Poems 1990-2000 (2002), which won an American Book Award, and Dancing: Poems (1969), which won the Joseph Henry Jackson Award. He is the author of multiple novels, as well as the American Book Award-winning memoir Bodies and Soul: Musical Memoirs (1981).

Young has also served as the editor of a number of books, including African American Literature: A Brief Introduction and Anthology (1995), and Yardbird Lives! (1978, with Ishmael Reed). His work has been widely anthologized and translated into many languages.

Of his work, 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.”

In the 1970s and eighties, Young co-founded the journals the Yardbird Reader and Quilt with poet-novelist Ishmael Reed. 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. Al Young has lectured in creative writing at a number of colleges and universities. In 2005, he was appointed the Poet Laureate of California. He died in April, 2021.

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