Cover image for Brown : poems
Brown : poems
Young, Kevin, 1970- author.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Physical Description:
vii, 161 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Home recordings -- One: the A train -- Two: on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe -- Field recordings -- Three: night train -- Four: the Crescent Unlimited.
"James Brown. John Brown's raid. Brown v. the Topeka Board of Ed.: [Young] meditates on all things 'brown' in this ... collection. Divided into 'Home Recordings' and 'Field Recordings,' Brown speaks to the way personal experience is shaped by culture, while culture is forever affected by the personal, recalling a black, Kansas boyhood to comment on our times"-- Provided by publisher.
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Material Type
Corning - Southeast Steuben County Library 1 811.54 YOU Adult NonFiction Book

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Divided into "Home Recordings" and "Field Recordings," Brown speaks to the way personal experience is shaped by culture, while culture is forever affected by the personal, recalling a black Kansas boyhood to comment on our times. From "History"--a song of Kansas high-school fixture Mr. W., who gave his students "the Sixties / minus Malcolm X, or Watts, / barely a march on Washington"--to "Money Road," a sobering pilgrimage to the site of Emmett Till's lynching, the poems engage place and the past and their intertwined power. These thirty-two taut poems and poetic sequences, including an oratorio based on Mississippi "barkeep, activist, waiter" Booker Wright that was performed at Carnegie Hall and the vibrant sonnet cycle "De La Soul Is Dead," about the days when hip-hop was growing up ("we were black then, not yet / African American"), remind us that blackness and brownness tell an ongoing story. A testament to Young's own--and our collective--experience, Brown offers beautiful, sustained harmonies from a poet whose wisdom deepens with time.

Author Notes

KEVIN YOUNG is the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and was recently named poetry editor for The New Yorker . He is the author of eleven books of poetry and prose, including Blue Laws- Selected & Uncollected Poems 1995-2015, long-listed for the National Book Award; and Book of Hours, a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets. His collection Jelly Roll- A Blues was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry. His nonfiction book The Grey Album- On the Blackness of Blackness won the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and the PEN Open Book Award, and was a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. He is the editor of eight other collections, the author of a forthcoming nonfiction book on the rise of hoaxes and fake news in American life, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Following his Carnegie Medal long-list nonfiction title Bunk (2017), Young's first poetry collection since Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems, 1995-2015 (2016), opens with Thataway, in which a lynching propels a man to catch the Crescent Limited heading north, thus joining the Great Migration. Trains give momentum and rhythm to the lyrics that follow, which are organized into Home Recordings and Field Recordings. The first contains poems composed of gliding tercets spelling motion as Young evokes an American boyhood of baseball, friends, and family in Kansas, punctuated by racism. In the second section, the speaker heads out into the world, guided by James Brown, Prince, Public Enemy, and Fishbone. Thrillingly quick-footed, Young's poems are also formally intricate and fully loaded with history, protest, and emotion as he writes of racial injustice, a theme that crescendos in Repast, an oratorio performed at Carnegie Hall that honors Booker Wright, a courageous Mississippi barkeep, waiter, and civil rights activist. Joy and sorrow ride the rails, as in B. B. King Plays Oxford, Mississippi, in which Young describes the blues master's music as A poetry where Saturday night / meets Sunday morning. --Seaman, Donna Copyright 2018 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Young (Bunk), director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and poetry editor of the New Yorker, reflects on the varied nature and meanings of brownness in a typically ambitious collection that honors black culture and struggle. The title sequence is the collection's highlight; Young recalls memories of the Topeka church of his youth-"where Great/ Aunts keep watch,/ their hair shiny// as our shoes"-while addressing its intimate connection to Brown v. Board of Education. Personal, historic, and contemporary confrontations with white supremacy, such as "Triptych for Trayvon Martin," feature prominently. In the stirring oratorio "Repast," the voice of Mississippi barkeep, activist, and waiter Booker Wright, murdered in 1966, rings out: "I lay down and I dream about what I had// to go through with." In more celebratory poems, Young pays homage to numerous groundbreaking black athletes and musicians, including the unheralded band Fishbone, whose "black grooves gave/ way to moans/ of horns, yelps,// bass that leapt." And he goes big in the double sonnet crown "De La Soul Is Dead," in which his college years mirror hip-hop's golden age, though a tighter single crown probably would suffice. The book's profusion of detail and consistency of form are arguably both overwhelming and necessary; Young is writing through moments of the exemplary and mundane-"we breathe,/ we grieve, we drink/ our tidy drinks"-for himself and his community alike. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Following closely on Young's omnibus retrospective, Blue Laws: Selected and Uncollected Poems 1995-2015, this new collection continues and deepens the poet's lyrical exploration of the African American cultural influences (Hank Aaron, James Brown, Mohammed Ali) who shaped his-and the nation's-identity. Through short, spare lines that dance, chime, laugh, lament, and assert, Young creates a consciousness-in-motion, a weaving of personal and national histories that not only reanimates the past but moves forcefully into the present. From his own experiences of prejudice ("our racist neighbor/ wouldn't let me spin/ on her swing set") and institutional whitewash (a U.S. history class that "spent the Sixties / minus Malcolm X, or Watts,/ barely a March on Washington"), Young moves on to empathic elegies for Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, and other victims of racial violence ("Because we must/ say your names/ & the list grows/ longer & more/ endless/ I am writing this"). VERDICT A richly envisioned memoir in verse ("Once you start how can you quit/ all this remembering?") offering a wide-ranging yet intimate account of growing up in a country that has yet to live up to its promises.-Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Brown              for my mother     The scrolled brown arms             of the church pews curve like a bone--their backs   bend us upright, standing             as the choir enters       singing, We've come this far   by faith-- the steps             & sway of maroon robes,       hands clap like a heart   in its chest-- leaning             on the Lord--       this morning's program   still warm             from the mimeo machine       quick becomes a fan.   In the vestibule latecomers             wait just outside       the music--the river   we crossed             to get here-- wide boulevards now   *     in disrepair. We're watched over       in the antechamber   by Rev.       Oliver Brown, his small, colored picture   nailed slanted to the wall--former pastor of St. Mark's   who marched into that principal's office       in Topeka to ask   why can't my daughter school here, just steps from our house--   but well knew the answer-- & Little Linda became an idea, became more   what we needed & not             a girl no more-- Free-dom       Free-dom--   *     Now meant             sit-ins & I shall I shall I shall not be   moved-- & four little girls bombed into tomorrow   in a church basement like ours where nursing mothers & children not ready to sit still   learned to walk--Sunday school sent into pieces & our arms.             We are swaying more now, entering   heaven's rolls--the second row             behind the widows in their feathery hats   & empty nests, heads heavy       but not hearts Amen . The all-white   *     stretchy, scratchy dresses             of the missionaries-- the hatless holy who pin lace   to their hair--bowing             down into pocketbooks opened for the Lord, then   snapped shut like a child's mouth mouthing off, which just   one glare from an elder             could close. God's eyes must be   like these--aimed             at the back row where boys pass jokes   & glances, where Great Aunts keep watch, their hair shiny   as our shoes             &, as of yesterday, just as new--      *     chemical curls & lop-             sided wigs--humming       during offering   Oh my Lord             Oh my Lordy       What can I do.   The pews curve like ribs             broken, barely healed,       & we can feel   ourselves breathe-- while Mrs. Linda Brown Thompson, married now, hymns   piano behind her solo-- No finer noise       than this--   We sing along, or behind,       mouth most   every word--following her grown, glory voice,       the black notes     *     rising like we do--             like Deacon       Coleman who my mother   always called Mister --             who'd help her       weekends & last   I saw him my mother             offered him a slice of sweet potato   pie as payment--             or was it apple--       he'd take no money   barely said             Yes, only       I could stay   for a piece --             trim as his grey       moustache, he ate   with what I can only             call dignity--       fork gently placed     *     across his emptied plate.             Afterward, full,       Mr. Coleman's That's nice   meant wonder, meant the world entire.       Within a year cancer   had eaten him away-- the only hint of it this bitter taste for a whole   year in his mouth. The resurrection             and the light.       For now he's still             standing down front, waiting at the altar for anyone to accept the Lord, rise   & he'll meet you halfway & help you down       the aisle--   legs grown weak-- As it was in the beginning Is now   *   And ever shall be-- All this tuning       & tithing. We offer   our voices up toward the windows whose glass I knew   as colored, not stained-- our backs made upright not by   the pews alone-- the brown         wood smooth, scrolled   arms grown             warm with wear-- & prayer--   Tell your neighbor             next to you you love them-- till   we exit into the brightness beyond the doors. Excerpted from Brown: Poems by Kevin Young All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Thatawayp. 3
Home Recordings
1 The A Train
Swingp. 9
Rumble in the Junglep. 11
Open Letter to Hank Aaronp. 13
Mercy Rulep. 15
Flame Tempered
The Division
Ode to the Harlem Globetrottersp. 26
Ashep. 27
Shirts & Skinsp. 29
I doubt itp. 33
2 On The Atchison, Topeka & The Santa Fe
Ad Astra Per Asperap. 37
Western Meadowlark
American Bison
Phys. Ed.p. 42
Warm Up
Ice Storm, 1984p. 50
Historyp. 53
Dictationp. 58
Booty Greenp. 59
Brownp. 65
Field Recordings
3 Night Train
James Brown at B. B. King's on New Year's Evep. 77
Fishbonep. 78
Chuck Taylor All Stars
Checkerboard Vans
John Fluevogs
Lead Belly's First Gravep. 86
Itp. 88
Ode to Big Punp. 89
De La Soul Is Deadp. 90
Ode to OL Dirty Bastardp. 114
4 The Crescent Limited
B. B. King Plays Oxford, Mississippip. 119
Bassp. 120
Triptych for Trayvon Martinp. 121
Not Guilty (A Frieze for Sandra Bland)
Limbo (A Fresco for Tamir Rice)
Nightstick (A Mural for Michael Brown)
A Brown Atlanta Boy Watches Basketball on West 4th. Meanwhile, Neo-Nazis March on Charlottesville, Virginiap. 126
Howlin' Wolfp. 128
Repastp. 131
Hospitality Blues
The Head Waiter's Lament
Booker's Place
Death's Dictionary
A Glossary of Uppity
Pining, A Definition
Whistlep. 147
Money Roadp. 148
Hivep. 156
Notes & Acknowledgmentsp. 159

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