Book of Hours

National Book Award finalist and PEN Open Award winner Kevin Young's new poetry collection is a work of great emotional power and beauty. Circling around the themes of grief (the loss of his father) and new life (the birth of his child), Young has crafted a rare work of art that is both immediately accessible and deeply philosophical.

Young's poetry is capable of enchanting the ear and stimulating the mind in the space of a few short lines: "These the things the waves want/ thieves--kiss/ the coursing sand, lick/ the coarse shore smooth/ as stone." There are wonderful poems of familial bliss, even when the child is still safely ensconced in the mother's womb: "Between your mother and me/ it seems we are only one soul/ sleeping--one of us awake/ while the train cradles/ the other into dreams."

Regarding his father's death and the grief that followed, Young both shakes a fist at the heavens and accepts the down-in-the-dirt fate we all share: "I hunted heaven/ for him./ No Dice./ Too uppity,/ it was. Not enough/ music, or dark dirt." In the long-sustained last section--"Book of Hours," from which the collection takes its title--Young fully embraces the dichotomies of this dance with death and birth. His language achieves an almost zen-like simplicity, wise with the blues of life.

Book of Hours is a major work by an important writer at the top of his game, a rewarding and impressive collection, that may catapult Young to the forefront of American poetry. --Donald Powell, freelance writer

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