Book of Hours

Poems

Look inside
Paperback
$21.00 US
5.98"W x 8.97"H x 0.52"D  
On sale Oct 13, 2015 | 208 Pages | 978-0-375-71188-6
| Grades 9-12 + AP/IB
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.” Ending this book of both birth and grief, the gorgeous title sequence brings acceptance, asking “What good/are wishes if they aren’t / used up?” while understanding “How to listen / to what’s gone.” 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.

 
"If you read no other book of poetry this year, this should be the one." —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"An impressively musical exploration of grief and endurance. . . . Young wrestles with loss and joy with enviable beauty and subtlety." Publishers Weekly

"Young’s tone is always pitch-perfect in these poems." Los Angeles Times

"In Young’s poems, loss is built into beauty, and while (for the most part) we take turns experiencing them, they never seem truly separate. As such, many of his poems are both sad and sweet, solemn and celebratory, reading like tender eulogies for whatever a father’s future can hold." The Boston Globe 

"I’ve read plenty of books about grief and about coming through grief in my life, but I’ve never before encountered a book that gets it as right as Kevin Young’s Book of Hours. It’s one of those rare reading experiences that I recognized, even as I read it, as a book I was going to buy over and over again, to give as a gift to friends who’ve had that certain hole cut out of them, the loss that you can recognize from a distance, even in the happiest of times." The Stranger
© Maciek Jasik
KEVIN YOUNG is the Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. He previously served as the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Young is the author of fourteen books of poetry and prose, including BrownBlue LawsSelected & Uncollected Poems, 1995–2015Book of Hours, winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Jelly RollA Blues, a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry; Bunk, a New York Times Notable Book; and The Grey Album, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and the PEN Open Book Award, a New York Times Notable Book, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. The poetry editor of The New Yorker, Young is the editor of nine other volumes of poetry, most recently, the acclaimed anthology African American Poetry250 Years of Struggle & Song. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was named a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2020. He lives in Washington, DC. View titles by Kevin Young
Bereavement
Behind his house, my father’s dogs
sleep in kennels, beautiful,
he built just for them.
 
They do not bark.
Do they know he is dead?
They wag their tails
 
& head. They beg
& are fed.
Their grief is colossal
 
& forgetful.
Each day they wake
seeking his voice,
 
their names.
By dusk they seem
to unremember everything—
 
to them even hunger
is a game. For that, I envy.
For that, I cannot bear to watch them
 
pacing their cage. I try to remember
they love best confined space
to feel safe. Each day
 
a saint comes by to feed the pair
& I draw closer
the shades.
 
I’ve begun to think of them
as my father’s other sons,
as kin. Brothers-in-paw.
 
My eyes each day thaw.
One day the water cuts off.
Then back on.
 
They are outside dogs—
which is to say, healthy
& victorious, purposeful
 
& one giant muscle
like the heart. Dad taught
them not to bark, to point
 
out their prey. To stay.
Were they there that day?
They call me
 
like witnesses & will not say.
I ask for their care
& their carelessness—
 
wish of them forgiveness.
I must give them away.
I must find for them homes,
 
sleep restless in his.
All night I expect they pace
as I do, each dog like an eye
 
roaming with the dead
beneath an unlocked lid.
 
 
Memorial Day
Thunder knocks
loud on all the doors.
 
Lightning lets you
inside every house,
white flooding
 
the spare, spotless rooms.
Flags at half mast.
 
And like choirboys,
clockwork, the dogs
ladder their voices
 
to the dark, echoing off
each half-hid star.
 
 
Greening
It never ends, the bruise
of being—messy,
untimely, the breath
 
of newborns uneven, half
pant, as they find
their rhythm, inexact
 
as vengeance. Son,
while you sleep
we watch you like a kettle
 
learning to whistle.
Awake, older,
you fumble now
 
in the most graceful
way—grateful
to have seen you, on your own
 
steam, simply eating, slow,
chewing—this bloom
of being. Almost beautiful
 
how you flounder, mouth full, bite
the edges of this world
that doesn’t want
 
a thing but to keep turning
with, or without you—
with. With. Child, hold fast
 
I say, to this greening thing
as it erodes
and spins.
"If you read no other book of poetry this year, this should be the one." —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"An impressively musical exploration of grief and endurance. . . . Young wrestles with loss and joy with enviable beauty and subtlety." Publishers Weekly

"Young’s tone is always pitch-perfect in these poems." Los Angeles Times

"In Young’s poems, loss is built into beauty, and while (for the most part) we take turns experiencing them, they never seem truly separate. As such, many of his poems are both sad and sweet, solemn and celebratory, reading like tender eulogies for whatever a father’s future can hold." The Boston Globe 

"I’ve read plenty of books about grief and about coming through grief in my life, but I’ve never before encountered a book that gets it as right as Kevin Young’s Book of Hours. It’s one of those rare reading experiences that I recognized, even as I read it, as a book I was going to buy over and over again, to give as a gift to friends who’ve had that certain hole cut out of them, the loss that you can recognize from a distance, even in the happiest of times." The Stranger

About

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.” Ending this book of both birth and grief, the gorgeous title sequence brings acceptance, asking “What good/are wishes if they aren’t / used up?” while understanding “How to listen / to what’s gone.” 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.

 
"If you read no other book of poetry this year, this should be the one." —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"An impressively musical exploration of grief and endurance. . . . Young wrestles with loss and joy with enviable beauty and subtlety." Publishers Weekly

"Young’s tone is always pitch-perfect in these poems." Los Angeles Times

"In Young’s poems, loss is built into beauty, and while (for the most part) we take turns experiencing them, they never seem truly separate. As such, many of his poems are both sad and sweet, solemn and celebratory, reading like tender eulogies for whatever a father’s future can hold." The Boston Globe 

"I’ve read plenty of books about grief and about coming through grief in my life, but I’ve never before encountered a book that gets it as right as Kevin Young’s Book of Hours. It’s one of those rare reading experiences that I recognized, even as I read it, as a book I was going to buy over and over again, to give as a gift to friends who’ve had that certain hole cut out of them, the loss that you can recognize from a distance, even in the happiest of times." The Stranger

Author

© Maciek Jasik
KEVIN YOUNG is the Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. He previously served as the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Young is the author of fourteen books of poetry and prose, including BrownBlue LawsSelected & Uncollected Poems, 1995–2015Book of Hours, winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Jelly RollA Blues, a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry; Bunk, a New York Times Notable Book; and The Grey Album, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and the PEN Open Book Award, a New York Times Notable Book, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. The poetry editor of The New Yorker, Young is the editor of nine other volumes of poetry, most recently, the acclaimed anthology African American Poetry250 Years of Struggle & Song. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was named a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2020. He lives in Washington, DC. View titles by Kevin Young

Excerpt

Bereavement
Behind his house, my father’s dogs
sleep in kennels, beautiful,
he built just for them.
 
They do not bark.
Do they know he is dead?
They wag their tails
 
& head. They beg
& are fed.
Their grief is colossal
 
& forgetful.
Each day they wake
seeking his voice,
 
their names.
By dusk they seem
to unremember everything—
 
to them even hunger
is a game. For that, I envy.
For that, I cannot bear to watch them
 
pacing their cage. I try to remember
they love best confined space
to feel safe. Each day
 
a saint comes by to feed the pair
& I draw closer
the shades.
 
I’ve begun to think of them
as my father’s other sons,
as kin. Brothers-in-paw.
 
My eyes each day thaw.
One day the water cuts off.
Then back on.
 
They are outside dogs—
which is to say, healthy
& victorious, purposeful
 
& one giant muscle
like the heart. Dad taught
them not to bark, to point
 
out their prey. To stay.
Were they there that day?
They call me
 
like witnesses & will not say.
I ask for their care
& their carelessness—
 
wish of them forgiveness.
I must give them away.
I must find for them homes,
 
sleep restless in his.
All night I expect they pace
as I do, each dog like an eye
 
roaming with the dead
beneath an unlocked lid.
 
 
Memorial Day
Thunder knocks
loud on all the doors.
 
Lightning lets you
inside every house,
white flooding
 
the spare, spotless rooms.
Flags at half mast.
 
And like choirboys,
clockwork, the dogs
ladder their voices
 
to the dark, echoing off
each half-hid star.
 
 
Greening
It never ends, the bruise
of being—messy,
untimely, the breath
 
of newborns uneven, half
pant, as they find
their rhythm, inexact
 
as vengeance. Son,
while you sleep
we watch you like a kettle
 
learning to whistle.
Awake, older,
you fumble now
 
in the most graceful
way—grateful
to have seen you, on your own
 
steam, simply eating, slow,
chewing—this bloom
of being. Almost beautiful
 
how you flounder, mouth full, bite
the edges of this world
that doesn’t want
 
a thing but to keep turning
with, or without you—
with. With. Child, hold fast
 
I say, to this greening thing
as it erodes
and spins.

Praise

"If you read no other book of poetry this year, this should be the one." —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"An impressively musical exploration of grief and endurance. . . . Young wrestles with loss and joy with enviable beauty and subtlety." Publishers Weekly

"Young’s tone is always pitch-perfect in these poems." Los Angeles Times

"In Young’s poems, loss is built into beauty, and while (for the most part) we take turns experiencing them, they never seem truly separate. As such, many of his poems are both sad and sweet, solemn and celebratory, reading like tender eulogies for whatever a father’s future can hold." The Boston Globe 

"I’ve read plenty of books about grief and about coming through grief in my life, but I’ve never before encountered a book that gets it as right as Kevin Young’s Book of Hours. It’s one of those rare reading experiences that I recognized, even as I read it, as a book I was going to buy over and over again, to give as a gift to friends who’ve had that certain hole cut out of them, the loss that you can recognize from a distance, even in the happiest of times." The Stranger

Books for LGBTQIA+ Pride Month

In June we celebrate Pride Month, which honors the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan and highlights the accomplishments of those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual + (LGBTQIA+) community, while recognizing the ongoing struggles faced by many across the world who wish to live as their most authentic selves. Here is

Read more

PRH Education High School Collections

All reading communities should contain protected time for the sake of reading. Independent reading practices emphasize the process of making meaning through reading, not an end product. The school culture (teachers, administration, etc.) should affirm this daily practice time as inherently important instructional time for all readers. (NCTE, 2019)   The Penguin Random House High

Read more

PRH Education Translanguaging Collections

Translanguaging is a communicative practice of bilinguals and multilinguals, that is, it is a practice whereby bilinguals and multilinguals use their entire linguistic repertoire to communicate and make meaning (García, 2009; García, Ibarra Johnson, & Seltzer, 2017)   It is through that lens that we have partnered with teacher educators and bilingual education experts, Drs.

Read more

PRH Education Classroom Libraries

“Books are a students’ passport to entering and actively participating in a global society with the empathy, compassion, and knowledge it takes to become the problem solvers the world needs.” –Laura Robb   Research shows that reading and literacy directly impacts students’ academic success and personal growth. To help promote the importance of daily independent

Read more