Whether it's the fireflies of a Louisiana summer caught in a mason jar (doomed by their collection), or his grandmother, Mama Annie, who latches the screen door when someone steps out for just a moment, all that makes up our flickering precarious joy, all that we want to protect, is lifted into the light in this book. Stones becomes an ode to Young's home places and his dear departed, and to what of them — of us — poetry can save.
Reading Kevin Young’s poems feels like glancing over his shoulder as he revisits the scenes of fond memories, savors a fine meal, grooves to ‘80s music and confronts his own grief...Young has a way of transforming these things, even grief, into something beautiful ... Young is at his best in Stones when he presents his readers with such striking images, memories he is seeking to pin down, fix in time and collect. We are lucky he allows us to travel with him into his past and glance over his shoulder.
The voice is casual, although you’ll never doubt you’re reading poetry ... Young is an expansive, almost relaxed writer; blistering intensity isn’t his signature. But he can throw salt in the pot when it’s needed ... At his best, Young reminds us that poetry’s middle voice remains a resonant instrument ... But if Young’s work gives you reason to hope, it also makes you think the poetry world’s precarious position may be hurting some of its strongest talents ... what you get, when you’re a traditional lyric poet publishing at this rate, is slackness. For instance, you have metaphors that don’t cohere...Perfunctory poeticisms are attached to things as banal as sausage ... Young is a gifted writer; he surely knows this isn’t helpful. Why is he doing it? Maybe because nearly everyone is. Young publishes more than most, but even a writer like Louise Glück, who is routinely described as acetic, has amassed a page total that dwarfs that of Robert Frost. But we are far from Frost today and deep into an anxiety of overproduction. There are so many books, we think, with so many lines that say so many things at such length — how could any of this be marginal? Surely the center of this storm of words must be magnificent. This is possible. But other things are possible too, and it’s worth considering, amid the hurricane of pages, what still, small poems one might have waited for.
With superbly crafted poems that engage the past and the present, Young delivers another ambitious collection across seven lyrically powerful sections ... These elegant, measured poems offer insight into the troubled moment through an exhumation of the past, while giving the reader plenty of depth and beauty to carry into the future.