Kevin Young’s necessary new book of witness creates a parade through time, and I love a parade. Especially one with such good music — the poems in Brown dance through bebop and into James Brown’s megafunk ... Every line of Brown is aware that this storm must scare the hell out of people who have locked their doors and kneel before Fox News Channel asking God what went wrong. Young’s book releases a universal shout — political in the best, most visceral way, critical, angry, squinting hard at this culture — while remaining at the same time deeply and lovingly personal. Love soars over every section, especially the most painful ones ... It’s a parade for all of us. Kevin Young loves you. That’s why he sometimes gives you a kick. It’s a rage that protects the most delicate observer’s heart.
[Young] effortlessly blends memories of his experiences — his childhood in Kansas, his college years and his travels — with reflections on sports figures, musicians and others who have influenced American life ... Young’s writing is crisp and well paced, his rhythms and harmonies complex. His virtuosity is on display as he illustrates the intersections between place and the past, the individual and the collective consciousness.
Young is a maximalist, a putter-inner, an evoker of roiling appetites. As a poet of music and food, his only rival is Charles Simic. His love poems are beautiful and sexy and ecstatic ... Young’s new book, Brown, is vital and sophisticated without surpassing anything he’s done before. It’s a solid midcareer statement ... Young has long been investigating the lives, art and lingering meanings of black cultural figures. He seems to know everything and everyone.