Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 7:00 P.M., City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, 94133
reading from his exquisite new collection of poetry
BOOK OF HOURS from Alfred A. Knopf
Possibly his most intimate book of poetry yet, Young's inimitably rhythmic, musical lines will quite literally move its readers. A beautiful book of both grief and birth from the award-winning poet whose work thrills his audience with its immediate emotional impact.
A decade after the sudden and tragic loss of the poet's father, we witness the unfolding of his grief. "In the night I brush / my teeth with a razor," he tells us, in one of the collection's piercing two-line poems. Young captures the strange silence of bereavement: "Not the storm/ but the calm/ that slays me." But the poet acknowledges, even celebrates, life's passages, his loss transformed and tempered in a sequence describing the birth of his son: in "Crowning," he delivers what is surely one of the most powerful birth poems written by a man, describing "her face/ full of fire, then groaning your face/ out like a flower, blood-bloom,/ crocused into air." Ending this book of birth and grief, the gorgeous title sequence brings acceptance, asking "What good//are wishes if they aren't/ used up?" while understanding "How to listen/ to what's gone."
Kevin Young is the author of seven books of poetry and editor of eight others, including Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels, winner of a 2012 American Book Award, and Jelly Roll: A Blues, a finalist for the National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize and winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize. His book The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness won the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize, was a New York Times Notable Book for 2012, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism, and winner of the PEN Open Award. His next volume of poems, Book of Hours, is forthcoming from Knopf in March 2014. He is currently Atticus Haygood Professor of Creative Writing and English and curator of Literary Collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University in Atlanta.
"Kevin Young is one of the most talented poets in the United States. With this new book, he should also become known as a major critic."
—San Francisco Chronicle, reviewing The Grey Album