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Brown: Poems

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  356 ratings  ·  64 reviews
James Brown. John Brown's raid. Brown v. the Topeka Board of Ed. The prize-winning author of Blue Laws meditates on all things "brown" in this powerful new collection.

Divided into "Home Recordings" and "Field Recordings," Brown speaks to the way personal experience is shaped by culture, while culture is forever affected by the personal, recalling a black Kansas boyhood to
Hardcover, 161 pages
Published April 17th 2018 by Knopf Publishing Group
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4.10  · 
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 ·  356 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite collection from Kevin Young yet!

Publisher blurb: "Divided into “Home Recordings” and “Field Recordings,” Brown speaks to the way personal experience is shaped by culture, while culture is forever affected by the personal, recalling a black Kansas boyhood to comment on our times."

Kansas boyhood= baseball poetry
Our times= moving, devastating tributes to young black men killed needlessly.

My favorites include all the parts of "De La Soul is Dead," which quotes a different 90s son
May 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
As poetry books go, this is a big 'un. Kevin Young if nothing if not prolific, both books and poems-wise. This baby has a little of everything, starting with childhood and school days poems and working up to civil rights works and tributes to black men who were the victim of racist violence. Throughout, like a refrain, the words "brown" and "black" appear again and again in different ways.

My only complaint is the overuse of tercets, especially in the entire first section of the book. If you ever
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reads with rhythm, like songs of passion and sadness. Many poems documenting (in poetry of course) racism and the human cost. There is also elegiac poems about the young and their passions. A beautiful collection.
Shirleen R
Fantastic collection. Kevin Young divides the collection into sections such as school athletics, hip hop of his youth, Kansas, and young blackn young black boys in their wrestling, baseball, and other team escapades surprised and delighted me . Frankly, I forget the *beauty* of these games. That athletics and arts, sports and literature are not antithetical.

These poems are intimate and honest. Their growing young black subjects aspire to turn sports places into college scholarships. They voice
Bonnie G.
This is why I love the Book Riot Read Harder challenge; I rarely read poetry, and read this in response to the Read Harder prompt "A collection of poetry published since 2014. The collection was wonderful, not a weak piece. I was particularly delighted with Ode to the Harlem Globetrotters (turning tears into confetti is one of the most heartbreaking and true allusions I have heard.) De la Soul is Dead was a close second, and the best laugh came in the Ode to Old Dirty Bastard. And there are a lo ...more
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This book is an education, immersive in the way excellent fantasy novels often are. Inasmuch as it's possible to grok another culture, Brown has invited me into the experience of growing up black in America. The racism, yes, and the violence perpetrated against, but also sports and music, friendship and fatherhood, the rhythm of language and the claiming of heritage and history, heroes and tremulous, pained hope. I want to read more of Young's poetry...and once I have, I'm coming back to discove ...more
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Stunning. The path through "De La Soul Is Dead" — as through baseball games and wrestling matches, as along train tracks — is beautifully, meticulously, tensely crafted. Other favorites include the two-line "Ode to Big Pun," "I doubt it" and the "Sunflower" section of "Ad Astra Per Aspera." But the final poem, "Hive," the distillation of Young's gentle, hopeful tenderness in all the poems about his son, is my favorite of them all:

Let him be right.
Let the gods look away
as always. Let this boy
Lexi Nylander
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I liked this quite a lot, although I didn't understand all of the sports/baseball references. My favorites were Flame Tempered, Sunflower, History, and De La Soul is Dead.

"Sleeping bags were a war zone where nobody died or got sent home"

"Later I waved to her from the podium after winning City, my smile as long as the shot she'd thought I had."

"I found your first record yesterday-it looked like the past & sounded like the future-that combo platter I loved best of all."
Dec 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Powerful poems by award winning poet Young. The second collection of Young’s poems that I have read this year; he has become a personal favorite!

Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Familiar, Warm, Weathered, Resilient, Tragic, Childhood back flashing, Injustice rules, I want to hear, read, feel and be a poem for a moment and Mr. Young delivered.
Matt Graupman
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Finally, finally, FINALLY I’ve found the kind of poetry I’ve been looking for: eloquent, insightful, blunt, and beautiful. Kevin Young’s “Brown,” an exploration of brown-ness, be it James Brown, Brown Vs. Board Of Education, or the more general minority experience, doesn’t hide behind flowery language or dense layers of allusion and metaphor. Young’s poems get in your face, say what they need to say, and leave you dizzy and altered. With short bursts of imagery and deft turns of phrase, the work ...more
Liz Mc2
Jul 12, 2018 added it
Shelves: poetry
I have enjoyed Young's conversations with other poets on the New Yorker's poetry podcast (he is their new poetry editor) so wanted to read some of his poems. I loved this collection and its reflections on brown--James Brown, Brown v. Board (a case I always forget is, like Young, from Kansas), growing up brown. There's baseball, jazz, 90s hip hop, civil rights. Violence and slights, music and food, love between friends, between father and son.
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
While I've read Kevin Young poems before, this was the first collection of his I'd read in its entirety. It made me want to chase down a few more of them before the year's out. His poetic preoccupations—baseball, blues, and the world his son is growing up in—are keenly examined. While the collection's title, "Brown", indicates Young's desire to engage with brownness as a thematic and topical springboard—brown skin, James Brown, John Brown, Brown v. Board, etc.—its scope is quite broad. In "Histo ...more
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading poems about things I've never seen in poems before. I especially liked the baseball poems. With some poems, I felt I would have appreciated them more had I had knowledge of the references.

I never even considered that black little league teams would be denied championship trophies, but of course. That poem hit me hard. (I'm currently listening to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, so I've been doing a lot of thinking about how racism specifically impacts the lives of childr
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Throughout American history, Brownness has been the source of some of America's greatest ills: racism, slavery, and injustice. But the word Brown has been important throughout our history too: Brown v. Board of Education, John Brown, and more. In this collection of poetry, Mr. Young explores this wide spectrum through reflections on America's past and present culture as well as his own childhood recollections in Kansas. It is a fine collection with some very memorable poems, especially the ones ...more
Patti K
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
The latest poetry from Kevin Young was published last year in 2018.
It was a welcome surprise from such an accomplished writer.
It has a far-reaching range of subject and deals a lot with history.
The black music history, cultural history, and lovingly personal.
As a personal touch, his child's cartoon action heroes' drawings
illustrate the end papers of the volume. He talks about the Harlem
Globetrotters, Leadbelly, Arthur Ashe, Muhammad Ali and John
Brown's raid. There is such a wealth of material he
Jan 26, 2019 rated it liked it
I liked this book of poems a great deal, however, Young's style of writing poetry does not gel easily in my brain. I had to slow down and process many of them in order to feel like I was even scratching the surface on the deeper meaning.
The reason I gave this book the three stars I did, is because although the writing style didn't resonate with me, it was very immersive and personal-feeling. It made me learn more about the experiences of PoC, as athletes, within legislation, and within the exper
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is a celebration of black life, black joy and black tragedy. It’s broken down into four sort of sections, childhood, teenage, adulthood and author’s personal heroes. One of the poems, or more rightfully elegy, focuses on Booker Wright and his life. It is my favorite. You can hear the humming of the restaurant, the quiet murmurs of the patronage, the slap of good Southern cooking, the rhythmic melody of Wright’s own voice. It’s quiet beautiful, just as the rest of the book. When read to ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
i listened to this as an audiobook and it only took me all of forever
but that's not the books fault. it would have been easier for me to keep holding the poems if i could see them. easier for me to try to understand, maybe. but that's not the books job.
this collection is not about me and not for me either. it is a story about growing up black and brown in a white america and it is marvellously told. i loved many pieces. there where just as many that went over my head, and that's fine.
it was wo
Lynsy • Little Book Jockey
Young displays a mastery of imagery in these poems, which meld the past and the present together in terms of racial injustice alongside racial pride. Many of these poems were composed with the rhythms of songs that distinctly play out in my mind when reading them. Although a lot of the poems have an underlying sense of fear and/or sadness, hope shines through in the last poem, "Hive," which is my favorite of the entire collection. Full review to follow.
Angela Boyd
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Kevin Young makes me want to write poetry. I especially loved the Home Recordings sections of this poetry collection; Kansas is in my bones too, and these poems resonated there. I also loved the title poem, Brown, for its perfect churchiness. The last line of the first poem in De La Soul is Dead is the one that stopped me and made me say “wow” out loud. Looking forward to reading more of this poet on my poetry journey!
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Kevin Young is a lyrical artist non pareil, and this collection is filled with astonishing poems that cover his life and baseball and music and history. Brown is an assured collection by a poet who is expanding and deepening the breadth and depth of his voice. Kevin Young is essential reading for our times and for understanding the times that have lead to our times. As a bonus, he includes odes to Hank Aaron, Big Pun, and an ode to the ODB.
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what an amazing read. The poems cover life growing up, they cover baseball, they cover Sunday and the church, they cover Emmett Till, and Michael Brown, and Sandra Bland and more. Not only that they do it with panache and emotion and pain and truth. This is a wonderful collection. I’m very, very glad I read it. I hope it makes me a better person - one more able to see the world clearly around me.
John  Mihelic
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’m partial to Young, as for a couple of years myself, I too was a Kansas poet.
A bot different in the background though.
But you must respect the subject matter, loving Prince and James Brown.
The book has the ultimate mark of respect: I’ve told others about it in real life.
Here, read this. You will enjoy it. I enjoyed it.
Steve Mossberg
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a collection! There are too many strong poems in this book for me to single much out, except to say that I was particularly moved by the selections that deal with fatherhood. Exploring identity, manhood, and race in the context of sports is another thing that Young does astonishingly well. Lyrical stuff.
Kelly Jones
Jan 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
q: i know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?

a: yes.

extended a: this book is cleverly structured and engages with important topics and histories, but didn't do a lot for me overall. i was more into the latter half of this collection (especially section 3).
Kevin Wright
Dec 12, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry
I was disappointed. Maybe it's my fault. Maybe I rushed through it. But, none of it stuck with me. Simple words, short lines and short stanzas, but so disjointed in thought as to be almost nonsensical (at least to me). Who's to say? It's such a personal thing: personal to write and personal to read. The best ones told a story, but I feel like those stories would have been better served in prose.
Jonathan Simpson
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Stolid, telling poetry. Grim when it needs to be. Light when it can. Illuminating as both an examination of history and of a young man's maturation - loving, traveling and listening to music. I don't think the ostensible framing device really worked - it felt like some disparate elements stapled together. But it was still marvelous to be reminded how vital the craft of poetry can still be.
Shawn Aebi
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Another solid collection from the amazing Kevin Young. Who starts a collection with homages to Clemente, Ali, and Aaron?? Young does and nails the hero worship. There are about four thematic bundles and the first on sports was my favorite - music not so much. Still, Brown reminds us that Young is capable on any number of subjects and had wonderful recall on many pivotal events in his life.
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I inhaled this book in a hour, stopping only to google John Brown and wonder why my public school education had failed to emphasize the story of a white anti-racist (I know why). This work is breathtaking in every possible way - warm, chilling, mournful and nostalgic. One of the best of the year.
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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
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