Thursday, October 28, 2010

Kevin Young's "easy on the eyes" approach

You've probably already noticed the appearance of his poems if you've ever even glanced at his work. Still, it's worth noting that many of Kevin Young's poems are easy on the eyes. I'm talking the look of the poems on the page.

The point about the look of his poems on the page probably aren't deep for some super high-level poetry discussion, but it seems worth noting, even in passing. Some of my students were reading some of Young's poems with me today, and we were talking about a certain shift in our gaze we had after reading Robert Hayden, Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker, and several other poets.

We weren't talking about what poet was better and such. Our focus was on how the look of Young's poems on the page took us to a different place--somewhere other than where we had been in our looks at some of those previous poets.

Check out the first three stanzas of Young's "Black Cat Blues":
I showed up for jury duty—
turns out the one on trial was me.

Paid me for my time & still
I couldn't make bail.

Judge that showed up
was my ex-wife.
That poem, along with his "Dirty Deal Blues," his poem "Bereavement," and his "Slow Drag Blues" display those short lines and short stanzas that have become signature features of Young's approach to verse.

Sure, many poets write short lines, but few of the many we've read so far this semester utilize short stanzas at the frequency that Young does. You move from looking at several words packed together on a page by many of the other writers we've covered to the spacing and succinctness of Young's poems, and your eyes will recognize a particular ease.

Like various other things that are easy on the eyes, what you see as easy or simple might be deceptive. Which is to say, the little lines and stanzas on the pages of Young's poems might have hidden, multiple meanings.

Related posts:
Kevin Young's "Bereavement"

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