For the Confederate Dead by Kevin Young

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In this passionate new collection, Kevin Young takes up a range of African American griefs and passages. He opens with the beautiful “Elegy for Miss Brooks,” invoking Gwendolyn Brooks, who died in 2000, and who makes a perfect muse for the volume: “What the devil / are we without you?” he asks. “I tuck your voice, laced / tight, in these brown shoes.” In that spirit of intimate community, Young gives us a saucy ballad of Jim Crow, a poem about Lionel Hampton's last concert in Paris, an “African Elegy,” which addresses the tragic loss of a close friend in conjunction with the first anniversary of 9/11, and a series entitled “Americana,” in which we encounter a clutch of mythical southern towns, such as East Jesus (“The South knows ruin & likes it / thataway—the barns becoming / earth again, leaning in—”) and West Hell (“Sin, thy name is this / wait—this place— / a long ways from Here / to There”).
For the Confederate Dead finds Young, more than ever before, in a poetic space that is at once public and personal. In the marvelous “Guernica,” Young’s account of a journey through Spain blends with the news of an American lynching, prompting him to ask, “Precious South, / must I save you, / or myself?” In this surprising book, the poet manages to do a bit of both, embracing the contradictions of our “Confederate” legacy and the troubled nation where that legacy still lingers.

About Kevin Young

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Kevin Young is the author of four previous collections of poetry and the editor of the Library of America’s John Berryman: Selected Poems, Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets anthologies Blues Poems and Jazz Poems, and Giant Steps: The New Generation of African American Writers. His book Jelly Roll was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and won the Paterson Poetry Prize. The recent recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and an NEA fellowship, Young is currently the Atticus Haygood Professor of English and Creative Writing and curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Published January 9, 2007 by Knopf. 176 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for For the Confederate Dead

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Much celebrated despite his relative youth, Young has set himself apart from his peers with his supple, variable, blues-inflected line employed in a series of ambitious book-length projects. This b

Dec 18 2006 | Read Full Review of For the Confederate Dead

Publishers Weekly

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Each component of "African Elegy" takes its title from a reggae song (Wamba loved reggae), and the sequence combines travelogue with inconsolable grief: "All this might be easier if/ there wasn't a song/ still lifting us above it,/ if wind didn't trouble// my mind like water."

Dec 18 2006 | Read Full Review of For the Confederate Dead

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Feb 09 2007 | Read Full Review of For the Confederate Dead

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