“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.
About the Artist
Kevin Young, a member of the Academy and of the Commission on the Arts, is a poet and director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
From Stones: Poems by Kevin Young. Copyright © 2021 by Kevin Young. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Commission on the Arts
The Commission - drawing on the expertise of its members who are artists, scholars, activists, and leaders, as well as the input of people across the country who participated in listening sessions - dedicated itself to recognizing and supporting the essential role of the arts and artists in American life.