Monday, August 5, 2013

Kevin Young's short lines & big books of poetry

When Kevin Young's book Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels was published, aspects of the writing, at first glance, were unrecognizable to me. Many of the poems featured lines with more than 5 to 6 words long. That's a rarity for Young, whose books usually feature lines with a short amount of words.

 Poems such as "Bereavement," "Black Cat Blues," "Slow Drag Blues," and "Ode to the Midwest" are representative of Young's short-line poems. Consider, for instance, the opening lines of "Dirty Deal Blues:
Best advice I ever heard
I learned

at the poker table:
Shut up & deal.
That's how Young rolls. Short and to the point.

In Ardency, he was emulating letters written by those captives turned rebels on the Amistad, which is why he chose to produce poems that looked less like the short lines of verse that had become his signature. And one reason those lines have become his signature is based on the large number of big books that Young has authored over the years.

Although volumes of poetry by his peers tend to average 90 pages, Young's books are often much longer. His volume jelly roll (2003) contains 208 pages; To Repel Ghosts: The Remix (2005) is 320 pages; Black Maria (2005) is 256 pages; For the Confederate Dead (2007) is 176 pages; Dear Darkness (2008) is 216 pages; and Ardency (2011) is 272 pages.  
Young's big books with short lines make for a distinct contrast, and consequently, that contrast characterizes his signature style.   

A Notebook on Kevin Young

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