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Princeton Poetry Festival
Kevin Young

Born in 1970, Kevin Young is widely regarded as one of the leading poets of his generation, one who finds meaning and inspiration in African American music, particularly the blues, and in the bittersweet history of Black America. Lucille Clifton says of Young, “[His] gift of storytelling and understanding of the music inherent in the oral tradition of language re-creates for us an inner history which is compelling and authentic and American."  His newest book is Dear Darkness (Knopf, 2008). For the Confederate Dead, was published in January 2007. His earlier collection, Black Maria: Poems Produced and Directed by Kevin Young is a "film noir in verse," a playful homage to the language and imagery of Hollywood detective films. The title, Black Maria, is vintage street slang for "police van" and "hearse," as well as the name of Thomas Edison's first film studio. The poems follow the adventures of two characters, the private eye AKA Jones, and the femme fatale Delilah Redbone, through "a maze of aliases and ambushes, sex and suspicions, fast talk and hard luck…"

Young was a 1993 National Poetry Series winner for Most Way Home, a volume of meditations on racism, slavery, poverty, and the meaning of "home" in the collective memory of African Americans. Most Way Home also received the John C. Zacharis First Book Award of Ploughshares magazine. Other collections include To Repel Ghosts: Five Sides in B Minor (2001), a poetic tribute to painter and graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and a finalist for the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets; and Jelly Roll: A Blues (2003), a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award.

Young's poetry and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, New York Times Book Review, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, and Callaloo. His awards include a Stegner Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford University, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship. He is currently a professor of poetry at Emory University.

Kevin Young

Photo by Todd Martens

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