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Brown: Poems

by Kevin Young

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784303,697 (3.75)9
James Brown. John Brown's raid. Brown v. the Topeka Board of Ed. The prizewinning author of Blue Laws meditates on all things "brown" in this powerful new collection--now in paperback. 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.… (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
This book is an education, immersive in the way excellent fantasy novels often are. Inasmuch as it's possible to grok another culture, Brown has invited me into the experience of growing up black in America. The racism, yes, and the violence perpetrated against, but also sports and music, friendship and fatherhood, the rhythm of language and the claiming of heritage and history, heroes and tremulous, pained hope. I want to read more of Young's poetry...and once I have, I'm coming back to discover these again. ( )
  slimikin | Mar 27, 2022 |
Young displays a mastery of imagery in these poems, which meld the past and the present together in terms of racial injustice alongside racial pride. Many of these poems were composed with the rhythms of songs that distinctly play out in my mind when reading them. Although a lot of the poems have an underlying sense of fear and/or sadness, hope shines through in the last poem, "Hive," which is my favorite of the entire collection. Full review to follow. ( )
  littlebookjockey | Sep 15, 2020 |
the most mawkish, least interesting memoir ever written, once given random line breaks, becomes acclaimed 2018 poetry. (shoutout fu-schnickens) ( )
  julianblower | Jul 23, 2020 |
This is why I love the Book Riot Read Harder challenge; I rarely read poetry, and read this in response to the Read Harder prompt "A collection of poetry published since 2014. The collection was wonderful, not a weak piece. I was particularly delighted with Ode to the Harlem Globetrotters (turning tears into confetti is one of the most heartbreaking and true allusions I have heard.) De la Soul is Dead was a close second, and the best laugh came in the Ode to Old Dirty Bastard. And there are a lot of laughs, a lot of joy in this collection, but it takes its place beside a lot of anger, a lot of frustration and confusion. The Emmett Till piece is gutting and adds depth to the stark pain as Young invokes the names of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and other more recent victims of the devaluation of black lives. This slim volume touches on every aspect of brown-ness in a way that demands real reflection rather than just visceral response, and at this moment in time I can't imagine a more noble and necessary thing to demand than reflection.

One note: Young wears his love of music well. In addition to the omnipresent references to music, (from Prince to ODB to James Brown to Jim Carroll to Radiohead to Leadbelly) there is a rich musicality to Young's poetry, and listening to him read on the audio was a real advantage for me. ( )
  Narshkite | Jan 10, 2019 |
Showing 4 of 4
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James Brown. John Brown's raid. Brown v. the Topeka Board of Ed. The prizewinning author of Blue Laws meditates on all things "brown" in this powerful new collection--now in paperback. 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.

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