Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Subtle Trayvon Martin Reference in Kevin Young's Poem?

I was checking out Kevin Young's new poem "Anthem" on NPR recently. The poem is part of a series "NewsPoets," where each month NPR invites a poet "to spend time in the newsroom -- and at the end of the day, to compose a poem reflecting on the day's stories."

Young's mostly humorous poem combines and plays off of a story imagining "what might happen if Texas seceded from the U.S." The poem also muses about currency, inspired by a news story about the demise of the Canadian penny, and includes uses and references to the word "cleave," which can refer to a severing or sticking to something.

Young's poem moves along with his clever and signature word-play. Most of the stanzas contain two lines, except one four-line stanza. That stanza also includes a reference that could likely reference news about Trayvon Martin, as Young writes:
Look and see—

the daffodils, the rain sage
upright, the high

desert, fire warnings,
the scorched trees. Cloven

clove, clave, cleavage,
cleft. Every day's
a lottery. Hoods,
blood. The death

of the Canadian penny
means we all may need

The words "Hoods," "blood," and "death" took my mind to hoodies and Trayvon. Young's line breaks are especially notable for the alignment of "Hoods" appearing right above "death." Could it be that I'm reading too much into it? Perhaps. But, his poem was about the day's news, and certainly Trayvon would be on anyone's mind or news feed these days, right?

Of course, the "Hoods, / blood / The death" is a quick and passing reference. Hearing Young read the poem out loud on NPR  doesn't highlight the words "Hoods" and "death" together in the same ways as when seeing the words aligned as they are. Not surprisingly, the interviewer did not ask Young about the insertion of those specific words, choosing instead to focus on the main concerns of the poem. The slight drift to hoods and possibly Trayvon did, however, catch my attention.

A Notebook on the Trayvon Martin Case
A Notebook on the work of Kevin Young  

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