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Jelly Roll: A Blues

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  431 ratings  ·  32 reviews
In this jaunty and intimate collection, Kevin Young invents a language as shimmying and comic, as low-down and high-hearted, as the music from which he draws inspiration. With titles such as " Stride Piano, " " Gutbucket, " and " Can-Can, " these poems have the sharp completeness of vocalized songs and follow a classic blues trajectory: praising and professing undying devo ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published January 14th 2003 by Knopf Publishing Group
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4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  431 ratings  ·  32 reviews

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Oct 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone.
"Ragtime," "Stride Piano," "Errata," "Rhapsody," "Lyre," "Evensong," "Interlude," "Late Blues," "Elegy, Niagra Falls"

Excellent use of enjambment/line breaks; wonderful richness of "simple" language, beautiful arc. Best book of poetry I've read in a while.
John Madera
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Witty, wistful, elegiac are among the hues of Kevin Young's blues, Jelly Roll's lyricism, incisiveness, and humor reminiscent of poems by Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Pablo Neruda, its oft-staccato and fragmentary lines deftly and evocatively fusing the "formal" and "colloquial," the result less code-switching than code-breaking. Highly recommended.
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this. Great collection of poems that tell the story of a relationship, using music--especially American music forms--to trace the emotional arc of the relationship and tie all the poems together. The language of the poems is musical, the voice decidedly American, often specifically African American. Some of the poems also hark of Emily Dickinson, in their use of long interruptive dashes and short but intensely thoughtful and emotional phrases. The early poems in the collection tend to be ...more
Laila (BigReadingLife)
This was a really fun book of poetry to read... playful and musical and earthy and sexy. I need to read more by Kevin Young.
Lisa Hase-jackson
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Kevin Young and The Blues Tradition

Kevin Young is the author and editor of seven collections of poetry (with an eighth on the way), winner of the Zacharis First Book ( and other awards, and admired professor of poetry at Emory University. In reading Young and considering his words closely, even those which are perhaps tinged with a fair measure of hubris, I step out of the vacuum of my own literary preferences to quickly become aware of how many Americans are little interested in poet
Jul 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you love music and poetry - you will really enjoy this one.
Nick Jordan
Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The dust jacket says “jaunty and intimate,” which is not as direct as “A lot of these are about sex.” Some truly standout poems (including many of those “intimate” ones), but the collection as a whole is not as thoroughly amazing as his *Dear Darkness.*
Ambrose Miles
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful, a blues song every poem.
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I like this book because it contains things that go according to the theme and it is also very accurate
Mar 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Using a variety of rhythmic song forms, from “Cheer” (22) to “Ditty” (15) or “Country (& Western)” (79) to “Disaster Movie Theme Music” (84), Kevin Young’s third collection of poetry is an inspiring look at the intersection of music and poetry. The poems mostly deal with love and relationships, as seen through the shaded lens of an aged blues singer. But Young is a deft observer of current culture and he balances the melodramatic tone of his blues with humorous images and motifs from popula ...more
Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry-class
This was absolutely fantastic. I loved his form; his words very very sparse, there were absolutely no extraneous or unnecessary filler words. I loved the shortness of the lines in most of his poems. I just think the form and style he uses is really great. That alone would make his poetry absolutely gorgeous.

What makes it even more gorgeous is the way he plays with sound. There are poems where the words or phrases don't really connect much to each other, but that doesn't matter because they sound
Diann Blakely
*Jelly Roll: A Blues* (Knopf), Kevin Young's third book, combines street talk and haiku, Africa and Georgia snow, decrescendos and dream talk. The free verse poems here have a jazzy, improvised feel; they're nonmetrical but rhythmically accomplished and highly syncopated. Perhaps the most dazzling, if seemingly minor, aspect of *Jelly Roll* is the titles, which signify Young's knowlede of music and his willingness to play with traditions in order to create a style entirely his own. "Busing," "Ro ...more
Mark Desrosiers
Apr 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I'm a sucker for that spare semi-autistic voice that Emily Dickinson invented well nigh 150 years ago, and Kevin Young's variation of it (inflected with Langston Hughes blues rhythms and John Berryman backwards grammar) is fun (!) and unique. These are not "difficult" poems by any means, but they are blunt, unrelenting, and re-readable (especially the lust poems at the beginning).

I wish his sense of humor didn't depart him so thoroughly in the death poems at the end, and the tedious "Sleepwalki
StacyLynn StacyLynn
i read quite a few poetry collections by contemporary authors. i usually 'doggy ear' my favorite poems. and while there are quite a few favorites in this book, i felt that the collection is so long that many of them began to blend together and sound alike.

the collection is simply too long. i also felt that the author is talented and has a unique voice, but way too much emphasis was put on the 'blues' aspect, rather than derive an original creativity/voice which the author has and that shines thr
Jan 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Haven't read a book of poetry in a while and this was a pleasant surprise--found it by accident among the new releases at the library. His titles are all music-related--like "ragtime" and "jitterbug," "dirge" and "muzak"--so it was the theme that pulled me in, but the contents are surprising and sexy. I haven't enjoyed a new writer this much in a long time; definitely worth seeking out his first two books.
Jul 15, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
i stumbled on this in the library at univeristy. my favorite quote: from the poem "boasts": Wouldn’t be no fig leaf/ if I was Adam/ but a palm tree./ Once I danced all/ night, till dawn/ & I—who never/ did get along—/ decided to call a truce—/ my body/ buckets lighter,/ we shook hands/ & called it blues./ Mama, I’m the man/ with the most/ biggest feet—/ when I step out/ my door to walk the dog/ round the block/ I’m done.
Renee Jaspers
Oct 27, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely hated this! It is was monotonous and boring. He loudly places himself in the "blues" poetry tradition (made famous by Langston Hues & Sterling Brown. He is young (as his name implies), but arrogant. It made me feel like this got published because it would sell well, versus actually being quality work. However, everyone has different tastes in poetry, so I'm sure some people loved it.
Aug 13, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll admit, I don't read poetry often, so I liked this book, but I didn't LOVE it. I'm also not a big fan of blues and there is a blues musicality to these poems. There were a few that stuck out for me...ETUDE, MIC CHECK, PASTORALE, and ELEGY, NIAGARA FALLS. I do plan to check out his other books.
Jun 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my favorite book of poetry of all time. I go back to this book whenever I need inspiration: the turns of words and phrases, the lust, love, and loss portrayed in the book, the imagery, all show what poetry is possible of creating.
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little longer than most poetry collections, but that just means constantly being excited for the next poem you know is there, and reading in a joyful instead of labored way. If you don't like Kevin Young's work, there's really very little I can do for you.
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Kevin Young is one of the best poets I have ever read. You read the words on the pages with your eyes but they enter your head as music (dirty, gritty, blues). If I could I would wrap myself in his words and fall asleep to the rhythms that they create.
H. Dair Brown
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't read a lot of poetry, so I can only speak to my experience reading this. I loved it.
Jan 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Gorgeous rhythmic poetry, sexy as all get out, sometimes funny, sometimes sad. I want all of Young's books RIGHT NOW.
Apr 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great collection of poetry. I love the way Young's work feels. It's so smooth and small and stilted, like Dickinson. Like it's trying so hard to be perfect, but also hardly cares.
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love. Poetry that oozes the blues. Language that rips out your guts. In a good way. For grown-ups.
Devin A.
Jun 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i really like poem books by famous worldwide authors. great authors. if you read this book
you will be amazed
Anglada 6/2/2009
Jul 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Big-time Belly Button Blues by Forever Young and Restless.
Oct 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kevin Young is for anyone who likes poetry and jazz. You can hear the music in his lines.
Cathryn Cofell
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading it again. Something about this book I keep returning to.
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
think it not speech. By moon I write not be be seen but to keep sane--
Sleepwalking Psalms (7)
(6) - Lord, let me never drink booze at least for one more week. Lord, let me eat more fruit than comes in a mixed drink.
Deep Song
Parlor Song
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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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“Deep Song

Belief is what
buries us—that

& the belief in belief—
No longer

do I trust liltlessness

is the world's
way—Go on

plunge in
—the lungs will

let us float.
Joy is the mile-

high ledge
the leap—a breath

above the lip of the abandoned

the dark the deep.”
More quotes…