Kevin Young (poet)

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Kevin Young
Headshot of Kevin Young. Young, with short hair and a beard, smiles at the camera; he wears a blue shirt and round glasses.
Young at the 2017 Texas Book Festival
BornKevin Young
Lincoln, Nebraska, U.S.
OccupationPoet, professor, editor, literary critic
Alma materHarvard College (AB);
Brown University (MFA)
GenrePoetry, literary criticism
Notable awardsGuggenheim Fellowship; finalist, National Book Award
SpouseKate Tuttle

Kevin Young (born 1970/1971)[1] is an American poet and teacher of poetry and the incoming director of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture. Author of 11 books and editor of eight others,[2] Young has been a winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as a finalist for the National Book Award for his 2003 collection Jelly Roll: A Blues. Young has served as Atticus Haygood Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University and curator of Emory's Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, as well as Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. In March 2017, Young became poetry editor of The New Yorker.

Early life[edit]

Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, Young was the only child of two working parents, his father, Dr. Paul E. Young, being an ophthalmologist and his mother, Dr. Azzie Young, a chemist.[3][4] Due to the careers of both of his parents, his family moved frequently throughout his youth. Young lived in six different places before he reached the age of ten,[3] but his family ultimately settled in Topeka, Kansas. He first began to pursue writing when he was thirteen years old, after he attended a summer writing class at Washburn University.[5]

Young attended Harvard College, where he studied with Seamus Heaney and Lucie Brock-Broido[3] and became friends with writer Colson Whitehead.[6] He graduated in 1992, then held a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University (1992–94), where he worked with Denise Levertov, and received his Master of Fine Arts from Brown University, where Michael S. Harper served as a significant influence.[7]


While in Boston and Providence, he was part of the African-American poetry group the Dark Room Collective.[3] He is heavily influenced by the poets Langston Hughes, John Berryman, and Emily Dickinson and by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Young wrote much of his debut collection, Most Way Home, while still an undergraduate.[8] Published by William Morrow in 1995,[6] Most Way Home was selected by Lucille Clifton for the National Poetry Series and won Ploughshares's John C. Zacharis First Book Award.[7] Writing in Ploughshares, Rob Arnold observes that in that first book Young "explores his own family's narratives, showing an uncanny awareness of voice and persona."[8]

Young has described his next three books To Repel Ghosts (named for a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting), Jelly Roll (a collection of love poems named for Jelly Roll Morton), and Black Maria as an "American trilogy", calling the series Devil's Music.[8]

Young's collection The Book of Hours (Knopf, 2014)[9] won the 2015 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize.

Young is also the author of For The Confederate Dead, Dear Darkness, Blues Laws: Selected and Uncollected Poems 1995–2015 (2016)[10] and editor of Giant Steps: The New Generation of African American Writers (2000), Blues Poems (2003), Jazz Poems (2006), and John Berryman's Selected Poems (2004).[8]

His poem "Black Cat Blues," originally published in The Virginia Quarterly Review, was included in The Best American Poetry 2005. Young's poetry has also appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and other literary magazines. In 2007, he served as guest editor for an issue of Ploughshares.[8] He has written on art and artists for museums in Los Angeles and Minneapolis.

His 2003 book of poems Jelly Roll was a finalist for the National Book Award. Young was named a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow in 2003, as well as an NEA Literature Fellow in Poetry.[11]

After stints at the University of Georgia and Indiana University, Young now teaches writing at Emory University, where he is the Atticus Haygood Professor of English and Creative Writing, as well as the curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, a large collection of first and rare editions of poetry in English.[12][13]

In September 2016,[2] Young became the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library.[14]

In March 2017, he was named poetry editor of The New Yorker,[3] to begin in November 2017.[2]

Young is working on two books, a non-fiction book called Bunk on the U.S. history of lies and hoaxes and a poetry collection he's described as being "about African American history and also personal history, growing up in Kansas, which has a long black history including Langston Hughes and others."[2]

In September 2020, he was named director of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, to begin January 2021.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Young lives in New York.[2] He is married to Kate Tuttle, book columnist at The Boston Globe;[15] Tuttle and Young married in 2005.[4]


Works and publications[edit]


  • Young, Kevin (1995). Most Way Home. New York, NY: William Morrow. ISBN 978-0-6881-4032-8. OCLC 30544468.
  • Young, Kevin (2001). To Repel Ghosts: Five Sides in B Minor. Cambridge, MA: Zoland Books. ISBN 978-1-5819-5033-5. OCLC 45466205.
  • Young, Kevin (2003). Jelly Roll: A Blues. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-3754-1460-2. OCLC 49737128.
  • Young, Kevin (2005). To Repel Ghosts: Remixed from the Original Masters. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-3757-1023-0. OCLC 57722526.
  • Young, Kevin (produced and directed by) (2005). Black Maria: Being the Adventures of Delilah Redbone & A.K.A. Jones: Poems. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-1-4000-4209-8. OCLC 55511276.
  • Young, Kevin (2007). For the Confederate Dead: Poems. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-3072-6435-0. OCLC 69734632.
  • Young, Kevin (2008). Dear Darkness: Poems. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-3072-6434-3. OCLC 196315701.
  • Young, Kevin (2011). Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-3072-6764-1. OCLC 635461180.
  • Young, Kevin (2014). Book of Hours: Poems. Alfred A. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-3072-7224-9. OCLC 844789963.
  • Young, Kevin (2016). Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems, 1995-2015. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-3853-5150-8. OCLC 908838408.
  • Young, Kevin (2018). Brown: Poems. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-1-5247-3255-4. OCLC 992437731.


As editor[edit]


Other work[edit]

  • Young, Kevin (1992). Most Way Home (Thesis/dissertation). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. OCLC 26555488.


  1. ^ a b Bowley, Graham (30 September 2020). "Kevin Young, Poet and Author, Is Named to Lead African American Museum". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e Peet, Lisa (21 March 2017). "Kevin Young: Director of NYPL's Schomburg Center, New Yorker Poetry Editor". Library Journal. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e Oliviero, Helena (15 March 2017). "Kevin Young is named new poetry editor at The New Yorker". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Kate Tuttle and Kevin Young". The New York Times. 8 May 2005. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  5. ^ Gioia, Dana (2004). Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Boston: McGraw-Hill. pp. 1041–1042. ISBN 0-07-240019-6.
  6. ^ a b Purcell, Andrew (20 May 2017). "Colson Whitehead: 'The truth of things, not the facts'". Western Advocate. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  7. ^ a b Lee, Don (Winter 1996–1997). "Kevin Young, Zacharis Award". Ploughshares (71).
  8. ^ a b c d e f Arnold, Rob (Spring 2006). "About Kevin Young". Ploughshares (99).
  9. ^ a b Matthews, James. "A Q&A with Kevin Young". Arkansas Times. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  10. ^ "PW's Top Authors Pick Their Favorite Books of 2016". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  11. ^ "University Honors & Awards: Honoree - Kevin Young", Indiana University.
  12. ^ Poetry Foundation (25 May 2019). "Kevin Young". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  13. ^ "Kevin Young On Blues, Poetry And 'Laughing To Keep From Crying'". Fresh Air. NPR. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  14. ^ Kelly, William P. (1 August 2016). "Introducing the New Director of the Schomburg Center, Kevin Young". NYPL blog. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  15. ^ Redmon, Jeremy (13 February 2016). "Broad range of music fuels Decatur poet Kevin Young's new collection". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  16. ^ "Kevin Young". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. 2003.
  17. ^ "United States Artists Official Website". Archived from the original on 10 November 2010. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  18. ^ Tobar, Hector (14 January 2013). "National Book Critics Circle announces finalists for awards". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  19. ^ Carolyn Kellogg (14 August 2013). "Jacket Copy: PEN announces winners of its 2013 awards". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
  20. ^ "Georgia Writers Hall of Fame". Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  21. ^ Schneier, Matthew (7 November 2017). "In an Age of Fake News, a Historian of the Hoax". The New York Times.
  22. ^ Dirda, Michael (29 November 2017). "Liars, hucksters and fake news are nothing new: a history lesson in hoaxes". The Washington Post.
  23. ^ Quinn, Annalisa (18 November 2017). "'Bunk' Is Encyclopedic, Fascinating — And Frustrating". NPR.

External links[edit]