Jelly Roll: A Blues

by Kevin Young

Paperback, 2005





Knopf, (2005)


In this jaunty and intimate collection, Kevin Young invents a language as shimmying and comic, as low-down and high-hearted, as the music from which he draws inspiration. With titles such as “Stride Piano,” “Gutbucket,” and “Can-Can,” these poems have the sharp completeness of vocalized songs and follow a classic blues trajectory: praising and professing undying devotion (“To watch you walk / cross the room in your black / corduroys is to see / civilization start”), only to end up lamenting the loss of love (“No use driving / like rain, past / where you at”). As Young conquers the sorrow left on his doorstep, the poems broaden to embrace not just the wisdom that comes with heartbreak but the bittersweet wonder of triumphing over adversity at all. Sexy and tart, playfully blending an African American idiom with traditional lyric diction, Young’s voice is pure American: joyous in its individualism and singing of the self at its strongest.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member abirdman
I wanted to like this book more. Poetry in homage to country blues musicians. The best material here is the work that's most personal to the poet, who is not a blues musician. It's a beautiful book.
LibraryThing member skylightbooks
Finding Kevin Young was like passing
a random bar with live music
and turning in, on a whim, and loving it,
shaking your head and saying "Hell, yeah."

The upright bass rasps behind him,
his sounds and syntax
bring the subtle variations and repetitions
that give jazz its bling. He sings

of love gone right, and gone wrong,
nailing the gravelly wailing
of the blues.

In Kevin Young, you'll hear a voice unique and familiar --
in all, a treasure, a jewel most rare.

… (more)
LibraryThing member nicholasjjordan
The dust jacket says “jaunty and intimate,” which is not as direct as “A lot of these are about sex.” Some truly standout poems (including many of those “intimate” ones), but the collection as a whole is not as thoroughly amazing as his *Dear Darkness.*


Original language



Page: 0.8438 seconds