By RILEY SPELLMAN
On the night of December 1st, Kevin Young honored those in attendance at this month’s Writers Series with readings of his humorous, sometimes dark poetry. The night was filled with awed silence, contemplative moments, and much laughter.
Young is an English and Creative Writing professor and library curator at Emory University in Atlanta, and has published seven collections of his poetry: Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels (2011); Dear Darkness (2008); For the Confederate Dead (2007); Black Maria (2005); Jelly Roll (2003); To Repel Ghosts (2001); and his first published collection, Most Way Home (1995).
Young graduated with a BA from Harvard University in ’92, and received his MFA in Creative Writing from Brown University in ’96. He has edited numerous anthologies, and his awards are impressive, as well. Among some of his awards are the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, an NEA fellowship, a Stegner Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford University, to name a few.
The poet is known for his powerful, thoroughly American poetry and also his inspired work based on African American music and history. He focuses on the blues and the struggles from the past, turning hardships and accomplishments into pure examples of human triumph, which they truly were, using poetic prose, brilliance, and fluency. Young’s passion for music shines through in his work, and for anyone that enjoyed his reading on Thursday night, his singing voice is beautiful and soulful, as well; Young incorporates music and song into his poetry, creating a unique balance using the two most rhythmic devices of creative expression.
While Young’s poetry is serious and thoughtful a majority of the time, he also creates numerous poems that aim to amuse, like his collection of “odes” dedicated to different foods or items (Young entertained Thursday’s audience with his reading of “Ode to Grits,” which was both a delightful, tongue-in-cheek poem about grits while also a dedication to a fond memory he has of his late father).
Those who treated themselves to the brilliance and humor of Young’s work most likely left Sykes Formal and immediately purchased his work. So if you didn’t go to the reading, hit up Brewer Bookstore ASAP. You won’t be sorry!