Kevin Young


Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems 1995 - 2015

  • 2016
  • Alfred A. Knopf
  • Hardcover, Paperback
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A rich and lively gathering of highlights from the first twenty years of an extraordinary career, interspersed with "B sides" and "bonus tracks" from this prolific and widely acclaimed poet.

Blue Laws gathers poems written over the past two decades, drawing from all nine of Kevin Young's previously published books of poetry and including a number of uncollected, often unpublished, poems. From his stunning lyric debut (Most Way Home, 1995) and the amazing "double album" life of Jean-Michel Basquiat (2001, "remixed" for Knopf in 2005), through his brokenhearted Jelly Roll: A Blues (2003) and his recent forays into adult grief and the joys of birth in Dear Darkness (2008) and Book of Hours (2014), this collection provides a grand tour of a poet whose personal poems and political poems are equally riveting. Together with wonderful outtakes and previously unseen blues, the profoundly felt poems here of family, Southern food, and loss are of a piece with the depth of personal sensibility and humanity found in his Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels or bold sequences such as "The Ballad of Jim Crow" and a new "Homage to Phillis Wheatley."

Reviews & Praise

Blue Laws demonstrates why Kevin Young is one of the most important poets of his generation. Washington Post

This book is a victory lap after nine collections for Young, who already has a cupboard full of poetry-world honorifics and gewgaws. But that makes the work here no less affecting or impressive, as Young demonstrates perhaps the biggest range in contemporary poetry. New York Times Book Review

Read as a whole, [Blue Laws] tells a story about how history has been written on African-American bodies, and imagines the voices that have spoken back . . . Young is a relaxed lyricist, precise without being precious, and he expresses enormous feeling with great economy. He's a natural storyteller. Harper's Magazine

At times playful, funny and tragic, [Blue Laws] reflects the torrid pace the 45-year-old poet has kept over the last 20 years. Atlanta Journal-Constitution

One of the most important books of the year in any category. Jonathan Sturgeon, Flavorwire

[A] rich and musical selection of Young’s work, a book that will make you hungry, sad, sing the blues, and love the ones you love a little harder. Boston Globe

Essential reading about the American experience from Colonial times to the present. Kansas City Star

A wealth of poems that transport the reader and explode the form. O, The Oprah Magazine