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September 2022

Recommended Reading: Kevin Young's "Stones"

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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.


Shelf Expression

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Shelf Expression

The heart of American poetry:
Wherever I’m at,
on Autumn Lake—
The difference is spreading,
A Black Arts poetry machine.

Old poet? 

Own poet.

*****

This poem was inspired by a shelf of books at the New York Public Library's Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, in midtown Manhattan. The first six lines consist only of book titles, but I didn't like ending with "old poet," which sounded too much like an epitaph. So, I pushed it down and tossed in a line that seemed to fit.

The Poetry Friday roundup for October 7th is at Sarah Grace Tuttle's blog. By the way, Al Filreis and Anna Strong Safford's The Difference Is Spreading and Edward Hirsch's The Heart of American Poetry are excellent. Both anthologies feature poems followed by essays on each poem.