Kevin Young Dear Darkness: Poems

ISBN 13: 9780307264343

Dear Darkness: Poems

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9780307264343: Dear Darkness: Poems
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Las Vegas, Nashville, despair, the Midwest, “Bar-B-Q Heaven” and his family’s Louisiana home: these are the American places that Kevin Young visits in his powerful, heartfelt sixth book of poetry. Begun as a reflection on family and memory, Dear Darkness became a book of elegies after the sudden death of the poet’s father, a violent event that silenced Young with grief until he turned to rhapsodizing about the food that has sustained him and his Louisiana family for decades. Flavorful, yet filled with sadness, these stunningly original odes—to gumbo, hot sauce, crawfish, and even homemade wine—travel adeptly between slow-cooked tradition and a new direction, between everyday living and transcendent sorrow.

As in his prizewinning Jelly Roll, Young praises and grieves in one breath, paying homage to his significant clan—to “aunties” and “double cousins” and a great-grandfather’s grave in a segregated cemetery—even as he mourns. His blues expand to include a series of poems contemplating the deaths of Johnny Cash, country rocker Gram Parsons, and a host of family members lost in the past few years. Burnished by loss and a hard-won humor, he delivers poems that speak to our cultural griefs even as he buries his own. “Sadder than / a wedding dress / in a thrift store,” these are poems which grow out of hunger and pain but find a way to satisfy both; Young counts his losses and our blessings, knowing “inside / anything can sing.”

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About the Author:

Kevin Young is the author of five previous collections of poetry and the editor of Library of America’s John Berryman: Selected Poems, the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets
anthologies Blue Poems and Jazz Poems, and Giant Steps: The New Generation of African American Writers. His book Jelly Roll was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and won the Paterson Poetry Prize. His most recent collection, For the Confederate Dead, won the 2007 Quill Award for poetry and the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement. The recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, Young is currently the Atticus Haygood Professor of English and Creative Writing and curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University in Atlanta.

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EulogyTo allow silenceTo admit it in usalways movingJust pastsenses, the darknessWhat swallows usand we live amongstWhat lives amongst us*These grim anchorsThat brief sanctitythe seaCast quite farwhen you seek—in your hats blackand kerchiefs—to bury me*Do not weepbut once, and a longtime thenThereafter eat tillyour stomach spills overNo more! you’ll crytoo full for your eyesto leak*The words will wait*Place me in a plainpine box I have beenfor years buildingIt is splintersnot silverIt is filled of hair*Even the tonguesof bells shall still*You who will bearmy body alongSpirit me into the sixDo not startleat its lack of weightHow lightI shall be releasedWhat we lovewill leave usor is itwe leavewhat we love,I forget—Today, bellyfull enoughto walk the blockafter all weektoo coldoutside to smile—I think of you, warmin your underground roomreading the bookof bone. It’s hard going—your body a deadlanguage—I’ve begunto feel, if nothope then whatcomes just after—or before—Let’s not call itregret, butthis weight,or weightlessness,or justplain waiting.The ice wantingagain water.The streams of two planesa cross fading.I was so busytelling you this I forgotto mention the sky—how in the duskits steely edgeshave just begun to rust.Ode to BoudinYou are the chewing gumof God. You are the reasonI know that skinis only that, holdsmore than it meets.The heart of you is somethingI don’t quite getbut don’t want to. Evena fool like me can seeyour brokenbeauty, the wayout in this world where mostthings disappear, driveninto ground, you are groundalready, & like riceyou rise. Drunken deacon,sausage’s half-brother,jambalaya’s baby mama,you bring me backto the beginning, to where things liveagain. Homemade saviour,you fed me the daymy father sat under flowerswhite as the gloves of pallbearerstossed on his bier.Soon, hands will lower himinto ground richerthan even you.For now, root of allremembrance, your thick chainsets me spinning, thinkingof how, like the small,perfect, possible, silent soulyou spill outlike music, my daddydead, or grief,or both—afterward his sistersmy aunts dancingin the yard to a car radiotuned to zydecobeneath the pecan trees.

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