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.
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.