2016 National Book Award Longlist, Poetry

Kevin Young

Blue Laws Kevin Young
Blue Laws
(Alfred A. Knopf)
ISBN: 978-0385351508

National Book Foundation: Who did you write this book for?
Kevin Young: Given that it's a selected poems covering nine books and several uncollected poems, Blue Laws is written for many different people. There are the friends and family who sustained me, many of whom have had their own volumes dedicated to them along the way: from my wife to my grandmother, mother, and my late father, who is the topic of much of my recent work. But Blue Laws as a whole is dedicated to my cousin Keith, one of my closer boy cousins who died young when I began the poems over twenty years ago—I think of him often. The book I hope is a monument not just to his memory, but to the future he inspires.


Blue Laws gathers poems written over the past two decades, drawing from all nine of Kevin Young's previously published books of poetry and including a number of uncollected, often unpublished, poems. From his stunning lyric debut (Most Way Home, 1995) and the amazing "double album" life of Jean-Michel Basquiat (2001, "remixed" for Knopf in 2005), through his brokenhearted Jelly Roll: A Blues (2003) and his recent forays into adult grief and the joys of birth in Dear Darkness (2008) and Book of Hours (2014), this collection provides a grand tour of a poet whose personal poems and political poems are equally riveting. Together with wonderful outtakes and previously unseen blues, the profoundly felt poems here of family, Southern food, and loss are of a piece with the depth of personal sensibility and humanity found in his Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels or bold sequences such as "The Ballad of Jim Crow" and a new "Homage to Phillis Wheatley."

About the Author

Kevin Young is the author of ten previous books of poetry and prose including Jelly Roll: a blues, a 2003 poetry finalist for both the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award; Book of Hours, a 2015 finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and winner of the 2015 Lenore Marshall Prize for Poetry from the Academy of American Poets; and Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels. Young's nonfiction book The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness won the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, the PEN Open Book Award, and was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. He is the editor of several collections, including The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton, 1965-2010 and The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink.


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