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Black Maria

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  104 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Kevin Young follows his acclaimed exploration of the blues in Jelly Roll with another playful riff on a vital art form, giving us a film noir in verse. Black Maria–the title is a slang term for a police van as well as a hearse–is a twisting tale of suspicion, passion, mystery, and the city. Young channels the world of detective movies, picking up its lingo and dark glamour ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 20th 2007 by Knopf (first published February 1st 2005)
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heidi
This is a noir movie in verse, in a spare, mattress-ticking-and-iron-rail style. The language is both gritty and playful. You never forget that these characters are leading lives of being a little too cold, a little too poor, a little too drunk. Even the sex scenes occur in seedy motels and the rhapsodies are about forgetting.

Collapse( some excerpts. I had a hell of a time choosing )

Rendezvous
[many awesome lines omitted, from now on represented by ....]
Her noble camisole
flees her body, wholly

And
...more
Emily
holy sh*t, wow, i dont usually like novels in prose im like choose one or the other, but man oh man kevin young i want to steal this entire book and say that i wrote it... i won't, but still! Everyone go out and read some Kevin Young he will make your mind explode with the grace and subtlety of his words!!! when i was trying to describe this work all i could do was make exploding noises and indicate with frantically flailing hands that my mind was blowing up!
Rick
A novel in verse or, if you accept the book’s conceit, a film treatment in verse, Black Maria is a film noir told in bluesy verse. Young is extremely gifted and skillful in mimicking classic forms like the blues and noirish detective fiction chat. For a young man, he is a star in the world of poetry, getting prizes, major publishing houses, large hardcover printings, and plum jobs (he edited the Library of America’s volume on John Berryman). Reading him is fun but I’m not sure that he’s not more ...more
SmarterLilac
Beautiful. The rhythms of these clever, original poems can't be beat. A must for fans of the hard boiled detective genre, which makes a miraculous transition to the poetry world in this book (lovers of Hollywood's Golden Age will love this, too.) I read Black Maria as a portrait of the lives of black Americans, personified as a film noir experience. Though its action appears set in the '30s, maybe '40s, its shrewd observations and insights feel entirely relevant for contemporary times.
Heather Renfroe
Jun 19, 2008 Heather Renfroe rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: a film noir fan without tv and a few hours to kill
My interest in poetic sequences involving other genre art forms drew me to this book. Usually in these cases, the campy genre is enriched by the poetry to bring out unexpected characterizations (see my five star rating of Sharp Teeth). That was not the case for this book. There are two speakers, I think, a male and a female. Maybe more. I'm not sure because there is nothing to distinguish one voice from another. All of the poems were written with short enjambed lines, which while creating a some ...more
Eric
Ambitious, noir-ish, hard to follow. I would say an atmospheric masterpiece, though I had a hard time following the narrative. This one would reward repeated readings. I read it straight through and once again a slow reading over a longer time would have been good.
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
I love his use of language in this one, his plays on words, double entendres. I reread poems just for the sound of his words. This book was like reading a film noir movie and listening to the blues at the same time. I must read more by this author!
Andreana
Interesting project--Young creates a similuation to film noir by writing poems divided into "reels" rather than chapters, which all carry on chronologically, as if watching a film. Great characters and very true to noir archetypes.
Kristin
AMAZING book of poetry. One of the most exciting things I've read in the recent past. Young blends jazz and blues with noir tropes to tell this tell of love, betrayal, etc. Gotta figure out when/how I can teach this.
Kilean
Cliche-busting poetry in the form of a smooth pulp noir. Ingenious. If you've a love for poetry and for noir, you'll enjoy every line of this one.
K
Very, very cool. It's like reading a film noir, you could read it over and over and continue to find new things about it.
B.
Excellent expression(s). There are many words I could use to describe the text here, however I am speechless.
Mike
coolest poet in the game.
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Kevin Young is an American poet heavily influenced by the poet Langston Hughes and the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Young graduated from Harvard College in 1992, was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University (1992-1994), and received his MFA from Brown University. While in Boston and Providence, he was part of the African-American poetry group, The Dark Room Collective.

Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, You
...more
More about Kevin Young...
Jelly Roll The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing The Best American Poetry 2011 Dear Darkness: Poems The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink

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