For the Confederate Dead ) begins his sixth book, which gathers sets of in"/>
 

Dear Darkness

Kevin Young, Author
Kevin Young, Author . Knopf $26 (196p) ISBN 978-0-307-26434-3
Paperback - 196 pages - 978-0-307-26442-8
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Perhaps the most prominent African-American poet of his generation, the prolific Young (For the Confederate Dead ) begins his sixth book, which gathers sets of independent short poems—some very funny, some heartbreaking, almost all in deftly enjambed, uncommonly various lines—with evocations of his childhood, at once cozy and surrounded by half-secret threats: “Back/ in the day, my mother cut my afro/ every few months, bathroom layered/ with headlines proclaiming the world’s end.” Young then launches into odes to foods, many (but not all) of them from African-American traditions: “I know you’re the blues/ because loving you/ may kill me,” says “Ode to Pork.” Other work finds lessons in country and country-rock music (“On Being the Only Black Person at the Johnny Paycheck Concert”). For all the humor, and all the autobiography, in this big book, Young digs deepest and sounds most powerful when he returns to the unlucky, unlovely, generalized personae of blues, who become in his hands at once a source of energy and a means for elegy: “Let me be what/ dust has to be, settling// over everything,” he says in the bluesy “Lullaby,” “& I promise to dream// of new houses & old/ loves no longer.” (Sept.)

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