Jake Adam York
|Jake Adam York|
York reading one of his poems in March 2007.
August 10, 1972|
West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
|Died||December 16, 2012
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
|Occupation||Poet, professor, editor|
|Alma mater||BA, Auburn University,
MA, Ph.D. Cornell University
|Notable awards||Elixir Prize in Poetry
Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition Awards
Colorado Book Award
National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship
Witter Bynner Fellowship
Jake Adam York (August 10, 1972 – December 16, 2012) was an American poet. He published three books of poetry before his death: Murder Ballads, which won the 2005 Elixir Prize in Poetry; A Murmuration of Starlings, which won the 2008 Colorado Book Award in Poetry; and Persons Unknown, an editor's selection in the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry. A fourth book, Abide, was released posthumously, in 2014. That same year he was also named a posthumous recipient of the Witter Bynner Fellowship by the U.S. Poet Laureate.
York was born in West Palm Beach, Florida in 1972 to David and Linda York, who worked respectively as a steelworker and history teacher. Shortly after York's birth he and his parents moved back to Alabama, where five generations of York's family had lived.
York spent the rest of his youth in Gadsden, Alabama, where he lived in a rural house and shared a bedroom with his brother, Joe. York was a big fan of rap music, including LL Cool J and Run DMC, and covered his bedroom in posters of his favorite rappers.
As his brother Joe later said, Jake was a "15-year-old kid in northeast Alabama in 1988, where white boys didn't listen to rap. But he did, and he loved it. Listening to those guys really tapped into his love of playing with language. He went to college to become an architect, but after two quarters at Auburn — and he was an A student — he became more interested in the architecture that holds our lives together."
York graduated from Southside High School in Gadsden in 1990 and that year started at Auburn University, where he eventually earned a B.A. in English. He then received his M.F.A. and Ph.D. in creative writing and English literature from Cornell University.
Career and editing
York worked as an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Denver, where he was an editor for "Copper Nickel", a nationally recognized student literary journal he also helped found. In the Spring of 2011, York was the Richard B. Thomas Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College. During the 2011-2012 academic year, he was a Visiting Faculty Scholar at Emory University's James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference.
In 2005, when fiction writer Brad Vice was accused of plagiarism in his short story collection The Bear Bryant Funeral Train, York took the lead in defending the author. Vice was accused of plagiarizing part of one of his stories from the 1934 book Stars Fell on Alabama by Carl Carmer. However, York noted that Vice had allowed the short story and the similar section from Carmer's original book to be published side by side in York's literary journal Thicket. To York, this action by Vice "implicitly acknowledges the relationship (and) allows the evidence to be made public." York added that doing this allowed the readers to enter the "intertextual space in which (Vice) has worked" and that what Vice was doing with his story was allusion, not plagiarism. York also stated that, according to his own analysis of Vice's story and Carmer's source material, Vice did not break copyright law.
York's poetry appeared in journals and magazines including The New Orleans Review, The Oxford American, Poetry Daily, Quarterly West, and The Southern Review. His first book of poems, Murder Ballads, won the 2005 Elixir Prize in Poetry.
His sophomore book, A Murmuration of Starlings, won the 2008 Colorado Book Award in Poetry and was published through the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry. His third book, Persons Unknown, was published in 2010 as an editor's selection in the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry by Southern Illinois University Press. Both books chronicled and eulogized the martyrs of the Civil Rights movement. Natasha Trethewey described A Murmuration of Starlings as "a fierce, beautiful, necessary book. Fearless in their reckoning, these poems resurrect contested histories and show us that the past—with its troubled beauty, its erasures, and its violence—weighs upon us all . . . a murmuration so that we don't forget, so that no one disappears into history."
In 2009, York was the University of Mississippi's Summer Poet in Residence. On February 14, 2010, York was awarded the Third Coast Poetry Prize. He was also a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in poetry.
Awards and honors
- Abide (Southern Illinois Press, 2014)
- Persons Unknown (Southern Illinois Press, 2010)
- A Murmuration of Starlings (Southern Illinois University Press, 2008)
- Murder Ballads (Elixir Press, 2005)
- The Architecture of Address: The Monument and Public Speech in American Poetry (Routledge, 2005)
- Self-Portrait in the Town Where I Was Born at Verse Daily
- A Natural History of Mississippi at Poetry Daily
- Four poems on video at Southern Spaces
- Four poems at Diode
- Selections from A Map of the County at RealPoetik
- Four poems at Blackbird
- Three Poems at Cambell Corner
- 'Elegy for James Knox' at DIAGRAM
- 'Signal at DIAGRAM
- 'Interferometry' at Greensboro Review
- Seven poems at H_NGM_N
- 'Legba Says' in Octopus
- Three Poems at Terrain.org
- Three Poems in Typo
- 'Radiotherapy' at Poetry 365
- Two Poems at Shampoo Poetry
Reviews and essays
- 'Recovery: Learning the Music of History' at Terrain.org
- 'The Marrow of the Bone of Contention' at storySouth, an Arts and Letters Daily 2003 article of note.
So let me answer it straight-out: Context matters, but good poetry is not bound by it. Jake Adam York’s Murder Ballads — a collection of 35 poems in four parts, published by Elixir Press — is a book where context matters. But the finely crafted poems—what Shenandoah editor R.T. Smith rightly calls York’s “demanding poetic”—are not bound by that context.
York’s study into the Civil Rights Movement is not meant to be an indictment of the American consciousness; rather, he strives to present the stories of these persons unknown so that his reader cannot help but reflect on this murderous chapter in American history. He never sinks into oblique facts, but he does not forget them, either. He never ignores the simple truth that he is writing poetry, and crafts a collection that is moving and substantial. Persons Unknown is a necessary addition to the oeuvre of civil rights literature and the conversation it (still) invokes.
- Jake Adam York Interviews Natasha Trethewey, Southern Spaces, Emory University, accessed Dec. 17, 2012.
- POETRY WIRE: REMEMBERING JAKE ADAM YORK, 1972-2012 BY DAVID BIESPIEL, The Rumpus, Dec. 17, 2012. Accessed Dec. 17, 2012.
- "Jake Adam York, poet who chronicled Civil Rights movement, dies at 40" by Claire Martin, The Denver Post, Dec. 18, 2012.
- "Taking It Personal: The Politics of Advocacy" by Jake Adam York, storySouth, Dec. 5, 2005.
- Fell In Alabama: Brad Vice's Tuscaloosa Night by Jake Adam York. storySouth. Accessed November 6, 2005.
- "THE STRANGE CASE OF BRAD VICE: In defense of a destroyed treasure" by Michelle Richmond, The Oxford American, Issue 55.
- "Brad Vice Finds a New Publisher for His Controversial Story Collection," Poets and Writers, May 31, 2007, accessed Dec. 19, 2012.
- "2009 Colorado Book Award Winners". Colorado Humanities. 2009. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
- "Poet Jake Adam York, 40, has died" by Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times Jacket Copy website, Dec. 17, 2012. Accessed Dec. 17, 2012.
- >Witter Bynner Fellowships, The Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress, LOC website, accessed March 16, 2014.
- Best American Poetry blog (December 16, 2012)
- "The Air We Make Together: The Life and Poetry of Jake Adam York" by Jon Tribble, Los Angeles Review of Books, April 7, 2013.
- "A Tribute to Jake Adam York" by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum, Southern Indiana Review, accessed May 9, 2013.
- "Jake Adam York’s Abide Reviewed at The Rumpus" by Harriet Staff, The Poetry Foundation, accessed March 16, 2014.
- "National Book Critics Circle Announces Finalists for Publishing Year 2014". National Book Critics Circle. January 19, 2015. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
- Official website
- Jake Adam York, "Jake Adam York interviews Natasha Trethewey". Southern Spaces, 25 June 2010. http://southernspaces.org/2010/jake-adam-york-interviews-natasha-trethewey
- Jake Adam York, "Anniversary", Southern Spaces, 15 April 2010. http://southernspaces.org/2010/anniversary
- Jake Adam York, "In the Queen City: A Reading at the Gadsden Public Library" Southern Spaces, 1 April 2008. http://southernspaces.org/2008/queen-city-reading-gadsden-public-library
- Jake Adam York, "A Field Guide to Northeast Alabama" Southern Spaces, 7 March 2008. http://southernspaces.org/2008/field-guide-northeast-alabama