Kevin Young is the author of seven previous collections of poetry, including Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels, winner of a 2012 American Book Award, and Jelly Roll, a finalist for the National Book Award. He is also the editor of eight other collections, most recently The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink. He is currently the Atticus Haygood Professor of Creative Writing and English and curator of Literary Collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University in Atlanta.
A decade after the sudden and tragic loss of his father, we witness the unfolding of grief. “In the night I brush / my teeth with a razor,” he tells us, in one of the collection’s piercing two-line poems. Capturing the strange silence of bereavement (“Not the storm / but the calm / that slays me”), Kevin Young acknowledges, even celebrates, life’s passages, his loss transformed and tempered in a sequence about the birth of his son: in “Crowning,” he delivers what is surely one of the most powerful birth poems written by a man, describing “her face / full of fire, then groaning your face / out like a flower, blood-bloom,/ crocused into air.” ... Young’s frank music speaks directly to the reader in these elemental poems, reminding us that the right words can both comfort us and enlarge our understanding of life’s mysteries.
"A compact daybook of grief ... Part of the power of this new work comes from Young's having written about his father's death before. But these poems take a new approach, darker and more direct than the elegies for his father that appeared in his book Dear Darkness. It may not be right to call these new poems elegies at all, because their concern is not with the dead but with the living and what it is like to be left behind with death."
—The American Scholar
Alfred A. Knopf