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Stones

Poems

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Paperback
$18.00 US
6.27"W x 8.98"H x 0.4"D  
On sale Apr 02, 2024 | 128 Pages | 978-1-5247-1115-3
| Grades 9-12 + AP/IB
A book of loss, looking back, and what binds us to life, by a towering poetic talent, called "one of the poetry stars of his generation." —Los Angeles Times

"We sleep long, / if not sound," Kevin Young writes early on in this exquisite gathering of poems, "Till the end / we sing / into the wind." In scenes and settings that circle family and the generations in the American South—one poem, "Kith," exploring that strange bedfellow of "kin"—the speaker and his young son wander among the stones of their ancestors. "Like heat he seeks them, / my son, thirsting / to learn those / he don't know / are his dead."

Whether it's the fireflies of a Louisiana summer caught in a mason jar (doomed by their collection), or his grandmother, Mama Annie, who latches the screen door when someone steps out for just a moment, all that makes up our flickering precarious joy, all that we want to protect, is lifted into the light in this moving book. Stones becomes an ode to Young's home places and his dear departed, and to what of them—of us—poetry can save.
© 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
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Where the train once rained
          through town
like a river, where the water

rose in early summer
          & froze come winter—
where the moon

of the outhouse shone
          its crescent welcome,
where the heavens opened

& the sun wouldn’t quit—
          past the gully or gulch
or holler or ditch

I was born.
          Or, torn—
Dragged myself

atop this mountain
          fueled by flour, butter-
milk, grease fires.

Where I’m from
          women speak
in burnt tongues

& someone’s daddy dug
          a latrine so deep
up from the dark

dank bottom springs a tree.
“Young transforms memories, grief into beauty . . . We are lucky he allows us to travel with him into his past and glance over his shoulder.” —Jeremy Redmon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Distilled meditations on the deep resonance of family and home . . . Evocations of church services, rain, sun, and the music of the dark entwine nature and human longing . . . For Young, words are stones; poems are cairns.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist

About

A book of loss, looking back, and what binds us to life, by a towering poetic talent, called "one of the poetry stars of his generation." —Los Angeles Times

"We sleep long, / if not sound," Kevin Young writes early on in this exquisite gathering of poems, "Till the end / we sing / into the wind." In scenes and settings that circle family and the generations in the American South—one poem, "Kith," exploring that strange bedfellow of "kin"—the speaker and his young son wander among the stones of their ancestors. "Like heat he seeks them, / my son, thirsting / to learn those / he don't know / are his dead."

Whether it's the fireflies of a Louisiana summer caught in a mason jar (doomed by their collection), or his grandmother, Mama Annie, who latches the screen door when someone steps out for just a moment, all that makes up our flickering precarious joy, all that we want to protect, is lifted into the light in this moving book. Stones becomes an ode to Young's home places and his dear departed, and to what of them—of us—poetry can save.

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

Resume

Where the train once rained
          through town
like a river, where the water

rose in early summer
          & froze come winter—
where the moon

of the outhouse shone
          its crescent welcome,
where the heavens opened

& the sun wouldn’t quit—
          past the gully or gulch
or holler or ditch

I was born.
          Or, torn—
Dragged myself

atop this mountain
          fueled by flour, butter-
milk, grease fires.

Where I’m from
          women speak
in burnt tongues

& someone’s daddy dug
          a latrine so deep
up from the dark

dank bottom springs a tree.

Praise

“Young transforms memories, grief into beauty . . . We are lucky he allows us to travel with him into his past and glance over his shoulder.” —Jeremy Redmon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Distilled meditations on the deep resonance of family and home . . . Evocations of church services, rain, sun, and the music of the dark entwine nature and human longing . . . For Young, words are stones; poems are cairns.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist

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