THE SOUND OF DREAMS REMEMBERED: Poems 1990–2000

Al Young, Author
Al Young, Author . Creative Arts $15 (0p) ISBN 978-0-88739-373-0
Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
Paperback - 134 pages - 978-1-4276-0114-8
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Mellow echoes of Langston Hughes's "Dream Deferred" rumble in the title of Young's latest collection, but the 140-odd short poems here have at least as much to do with Charles Bukowski's pointed ramblings, as they are long on mystique and sentiment. A readable and topical history of the decade in op-eds and sermons, this book could nevertheless use weeding; Young (Conjugal Visits) goes for the easy laugh and knowing nod a few times too often. At their best, though, these meditations on love, travel, politics and misbehavior transcend their plays on familiar phrases: "Human conditioning feels nothing like air/ conditioning"—with shockingly specific language—" 'Those were the nastiest stewardesses/ I've ever seen'? 'How nasty were they?'/ 'Take my word, they was nasty. They had/ strings of spit hangin from they mouth,/ they had make-up all graped up in they eyes./ O they was nasty!'" Casual blank verse gives way to fluid, rhyming iambic pentameter in poems like "The Old Country": "What is it we want,/ or need to haul or lug like Motorolas/ of the blood? Beep! The mileage we squander/ on these jumps from mayonnaise Minnesotas/ to curry Calcuttas, from Tokyos you could wander." Readers will have to search for such standouts, but they sing out like Motorolas of the blood. (May)

Forecast:Young, whose oeuvre includes hard-to-find novels and memoirs, was the judge of this year's Cave Canem poetry prize. This collection should set the stage for a larger-budget selection of his work. And the loyal fans of his San Francisco base will certainly pick it up in local stores.

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