Martin Farawell, Program Director, Poetry
Listening to Kevin Young read at the 2008 Festival, we discover “the tradition” can have many meanings and be vibrantly alive in a very contemporary poet.
Young’s careful shaping of language as a poet and reader shows a keen appreciation for poetry’s oral tradition. These poems are meant to be heard aloud. He reads them as he must have composed them: with meticulous attention to the sound of words and the rhythm of speech.
His poems also reveal his strong ties to the traditions of his Louisiana family. He is a poet aware of his roots and willing to explore how family and birthplace can continue to shape our perceptions and sense of self.
Young is also a devoted student of the American musical tradition. His shaping of the line owes much to his feeling for a good jazz riff, and “Flash Flood Blues” is only one of many poems he’s written influenced by the structure of the blues lyric. It’s not hard to imagine that music has had as strong an influence on Young’s sense of poetic form as literature has. And yet we know only someone deeply immersed in the literary tradition could have written “Ode to Pork” and “Ode to Boudin.”
Young merges these many traditions seamlessly, and with such warmth and good humor it is easy to forget his achievement requires not only great craft, but great erudition.
“Aunties,” “Flash Flood Blues,” “Ode to Pork and “Ode to Boudin” can be found in Dear Darkness, Kevin Young’s most recent collection. Visit the 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival Poet Pages for a biography of Kevin Young.
Be sure to return for upcoming Poetry Fridays, when we will feature many poets from past Dodge Poetry Festivals in the weeks ahead, including Jorie Graham, Tony Hoagland, Taslima Nasreen and others.