I’ve just finished Stones, Kevin Young’s latest collection, and admired the concision and short lines in this book (Knopf, 2021). Young is not only the New Yorker’s poetry editor, he is also the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. These poems are about history and grief and ancestors, and, a topic after my own heart, the South. In Young’s case, it’s southern Louisiana, where his relatives live. (“The roads here/only lately got names.”)
My favorite work in Stones is “Speed Trap,” which you can read online at Literary Hub. It’s a found poem (or at least it looks like one), quoting roadside advertisements (“WE BUY GOLD/Soul Food Seafood/Stock Yard Café”), and Young drops in photo-like details of his own (“Stray couch wounded/beside the road”). Driving through, the reader sees the town, its pleasures ("Butts-n-Ribs") and dysfunctions (FEMA trailers, etc.), and the way the word “trap” functions as both a reference to out-of-towners who dare speed and to others, locals unable to leave for a myriad of reasons.
Stones is well worth your time. It’s already given me some ideas for poems mixing found language with a soupçon of personal observance.
The Poetry Friday roundup for October 28th takes place at Jone Rush MacCulloch's blog.
Photo by ST.