For Immediate Release

Kevin Young, Prize-Winning Poet and Essayist, to Read and Discuss Poetry and Contemporary Culture

March 23, 2005

Chicago—In celebration of National Poetry Month, the poet and essayist Kevin Young will read from his new collection, Black Maria: Poems Produced and Directed by Kevin Young, on Tuesday, April 19th, at 6:00 p.m. at The Newberry Library, 60 West Walton Street in Chicago.

Sponsored by The Poetry Foundation, this is the sixth in a series of Poetry Off the Shelf readings and conversations. The program regularly makes recent contributors to Poetry magazine available to discuss essential themes in their work and answer audience questions.

Kevin Young's reading is co-sponsored by the Academy of American Poets as part of its 10 Years/10 Cities reading series to mark the 10th Anniversary of National Poetry Month.

A film noir in verse, Black Maria channels the world of detective movies, picking up its lingo and dark glamour in five "reels" of poems—the adventures of a "soft-boiled" private eye known as A.K.A. Jones and an ingenue turned femme fatale, Delilah Redbone. The collection follows Jones and Delilah through a maze of aliases and ambushes, fast talk and hard luck, in Shadowtown, where noir characters abound.

Publishers Weekly calls Young, who was recently featured on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, "a leading poet of his generation," saying Black Maria "confirms Young's mastery of his syncopated verse line, his way with witty rhyme, and his facility with his chosen genre." The American Library Association's Booklist calls Young, "A postmodern Andrew Marvell," and notes that with Black Maria, Young "turns cliché inside out in an ingenious celebration of improvisation in art and in life."

Kevin Young was born in 1970 in Lincoln, Nebraska. He received his B.A. from Harvard University and his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Brown University. Young's first book, Most Way Home, was selected for the National Poetry Series and won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares. His second book of poems, To Repel Ghosts, a "double album" based on the works of the late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, was a finalist for the James Laughlin Prize from The Academy of American Poets.

Young's last book of poems, Jelly Roll: A Blues, a collection of blues-based love poems, won the Paterson Poetry Prize, and was a finalist for both the 2003 National Book Award in Poetry and the 2003 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry. His poetry and essays have appeared in Poetry, The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. In 2001, The Village Voice named Young a "Writer on the Verge."

Young is also the editor of the anthology Giant Steps: The New Generation of African American Writers, and the editor of the Everyman's Library Pocket Poet anthology Blues Poems. A former Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, and recent Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, Young is currently Ruth Lilly Professor of Poetry at Indiana University.

Admission is FREE. Refreshments will be served. For further information, please call The Poetry Foundation at (312) 787-7070.

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EARLY SHOW

Here even the darkness
is watered down—

Shades drawn
won't keep out dawn,

Won't bring me sleep
or us any closer—

The gap in our pushed-together
twin beds grows wider.

Regret a green thing
all morning I been

Watering—not that
it needs it—

Even untended my mind
weed-filled, wild.

Nothing wakes him—
not the trucks' hum

Backing up, or the woman
who knocks loud, trading

The hotel's ghostly towels
but letting the sheets

Stay unchanged.

Lunchtime,
the adultery hour—

The flophouse fills
with couples telling

Work they need
an extra hour

For the doctor—
you can hear them in the hall

Practicing coughs
& examining each

Other's tonsils. Ah—

If despair had a sound
it would be: DO NOT DISTURB.

If despair has a sound
it's the muffled, raised

Voices of the pair next door
who've lived here

In One-Star Manor forever
yet still pay by the week

—Love's an iffy lease—

Or worse may be
the sharp silence

That follows every fight.
While the secretaries

& file clerks and junior
execs undress—

Trade their shorthand kisses—

I run what HOT
is left (though hard

To know, marked COLD)
till I steam the mirrors

Like car windows
in a prom's parking lot

& I can't see myself.

Despair,
I know, is the ham radio

On low, crackling
like rain & announcing

Today's game
has been called—a first—

On account of too much sun.

--KEVIN YOUNG

First published in the May 2004 issue of Poetry. Copyright © 2004 by Kevin Young.

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The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It has embarked on an ambitious plan to bring the best poetry before the largest possible audience. In the coming year, the Foundation will sponsor a recitation contest in the schools, a major new poetry website, and an unprecedented study to understand poetry's place in American culture.

Founded in Chicago by Harriet Monroe in 1912, Poetry is the oldest monthly devoted to verse in the English-speaking world. Harriet Monroe's "Open Door" policy, set forth in Volume I of the magazine, remains the most succinct statement of Poetry's mission: to print the best poetry written today, in whatever style, genre, or approach. The magazine established its reputation early by publishing the first important poems of T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, H. D., William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, and other now-classic authors. In succeeding decades it has presented—often for the first time—works by virtually every significant poet of the 20th century.

Poetry has always been independent, unaffiliated with any institution or university—or with any single poetic or critical movement or aesthetic school. It continues to print the major English-speaking poets, while presenting emerging talents, in all their variety. In recent years, more than a third of the authors published in the magazine have been young writers appearing for the first time. On average, the magazine receives over 90,000 submissions per year, from around the world.


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