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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 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 in five “reels” of poetry–the adventures of a “soft-boiled” private eye, known as A.K.A. Jones, and an ingenue turned femme fatale, Delilah Redbone, who’s come to town from down south (“Mama bent till dark / tending rows to send / Me to school . . . I wanted / To head on & hitch . . . strike it / Big”). We follow Jones and Delilah through a maze of aliases and ambushes, sex and suspicions, fast talk and hard luck, in Shadowtown where noir characters abound. The Killer, The Gunsel, The Hack, The Director, The Champ, and The Snitch are among the local luminaries and beautiful losers who mingle with Jones and his elusive lady as they stalk one another through the scenes of the poet’s dazzling “treatment.” Charming, funky, bleak, humorous, picaresque, and full of pathos, Black Maria is brimming with the originality and stark lyricism we have come to expect from this remarkable poet. When we met her first request: Got a light? * I only had dark so gave her that instead. * Ashtray full of butts & maybes. * The sound of her heels down the hall to me means reveille. (from “Stills”) Click on the poem titles below to hear Kevin Young read from Black Maria.


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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 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 in five “reels” of poetry–the adventures of a “soft-boiled” private eye, known as A.K.A. Jones, and an ingenue turned femme fatale, Delilah Redbone, who’s come to town from down south (“Mama bent till dark / tending rows to send / Me to school . . . I wanted / To head on & hitch . . . strike it / Big”). We follow Jones and Delilah through a maze of aliases and ambushes, sex and suspicions, fast talk and hard luck, in Shadowtown where noir characters abound. The Killer, The Gunsel, The Hack, The Director, The Champ, and The Snitch are among the local luminaries and beautiful losers who mingle with Jones and his elusive lady as they stalk one another through the scenes of the poet’s dazzling “treatment.” Charming, funky, bleak, humorous, picaresque, and full of pathos, Black Maria is brimming with the originality and stark lyricism we have come to expect from this remarkable poet. When we met her first request: Got a light? * I only had dark so gave her that instead. * Ashtray full of butts & maybes. * The sound of her heels down the hall to me means reveille. (from “Stills”) Click on the poem titles below to hear Kevin Young read from Black Maria.

30 review for Black Maria: Poems Produced and Directed by

  1. 4 out of 5

    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 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 she is above me floating, dyed Hair caught in stars & areoles -- Lingering cigarette light Bolted-down seascape art Peristent static radio My growing, gibbous heart The Alias ... I drink a lot about my thinking problem -- Nightcap, noontime nip -- She my unquit habit. ..... My good eye watched all night the storm Drown the street in worms The Rushes .... Planned she & I would meet where the dead sleep, pretending No one there knew me -- Beneathe the morgue moon, blue light tugging at seas One day, I thought, that will be me In the godawful ground -- Our kisses cemeteries The suicides coughing in their restless deep The moon autopsied to find out if it waned From natural causes. Bulletproof hearses. ...... I snapped back to see her hushed beside me Soft-focus frame fading The fedoraed darkness moving -- Our arms open as fire, we embraced While bullets ricocheted off stone angels Worn down by weather & winnowed by tears Of red-clad windows in crocodile heels Who visit just one hour a year. Stills .... Without her I am incomplete -- prehensible, licit, couth. * Wisdom this tooth aching I want removed. The Grift .... His real home was six feet beneath ground, he was just up here renting breath with the rest of us, short-term lease he's fallen behind on. * Flimflam man, two empty hands. Collapse In short, I really loved this book, and was strangely unsurprised when I got to the end and there was a heartfelt thank-you to Colson Whitehead, because while the voice wasn't that similar, this book and The Intuitionist could exist in the same world. Read if: You like lyrical poetry featuring a complete absence of ladies, lillies, clouds, or joy. If you are in the mood for a long-form poetry book. If you love noir and the trenchcoated gumshoes and fallen chantueses that populate it. Skip if: You really want straightforward beauty, you hate short lines, poetry seems inefficient to you.

  2. 4 out of 5

    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! 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!

  3. 5 out of 5

    C. Varn

    Kevin Young is a master of analogous styles, Black Maria showcases his short, staccato lines infused with noir-imaginary and voice. It's a poetry version of Dashiell Hammet tbut deeply steeped in African American history and poetry. This is an highly enjoyable and accessible, and yet borderline experimental collection. When read with the reset of Kevin Young's work, it shows his poetic versatility. Kevin Young is a master of analogous styles, Black Maria showcases his short, staccato lines infused with noir-imaginary and voice. It's a poetry version of Dashiell Hammet tbut deeply steeped in African American history and poetry. This is an highly enjoyable and accessible, and yet borderline experimental collection. When read with the reset of Kevin Young's work, it shows his poetic versatility.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Ferriter

    ** 3.5 stars ** Very cool concept - a film noir in verse. The poems themselves contain some clever wordplay and feel reminiscent of Langston Hughes's jazz poetry. For me, none of the individual poems rise to the level of something extraordinary, but as a whole, Black Maria was certainly an enjoyable read. If you are a fan of either Langston Hughes or film noir, you will probably like this collection. Also recommended for readers with an interest in contemporary African American poetry. ** 3.5 stars ** Very cool concept - a film noir in verse. The poems themselves contain some clever wordplay and feel reminiscent of Langston Hughes's jazz poetry. For me, none of the individual poems rise to the level of something extraordinary, but as a whole, Black Maria was certainly an enjoyable read. If you are a fan of either Langston Hughes or film noir, you will probably like this collection. Also recommended for readers with an interest in contemporary African American poetry.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Ward

    I wish I had this book on hand to say more, but I lent it to a student several years ago and never got it back. What I remember though is the clever wordplay and the interesting connections implied between film and poetry--how imagery can be edited in a poem in a way similar to that which happens in film, and how through that process, characters can be sorted into certain stock types.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Aebi

    Harkening back to the film noir days with Bogie and Bacall, Wilson adds a modern day rift with his excellent rhythms and witticisms ("He say, she say, foreplay, amscray"). Accentuates all of your favorite stereotypes about these personas. Buy will he get the girl? Harkening back to the film noir days with Bogie and Bacall, Wilson adds a modern day rift with his excellent rhythms and witticisms ("He say, she say, foreplay, amscray"). Accentuates all of your favorite stereotypes about these personas. Buy will he get the girl?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Second time read through ( first time when new.) Minimal poems in a five reel noir tale. Ending? You ask. Read on to the end of this marvelous poetic spiel from the pen of Young.

  8. 4 out of 5

    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 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 clever than he is interesting, more dexterous with ideas than with a real grip on a subject or purpose. Some of his lines stop you to allow for admiration or sharing; others stop you with their effort to get your attention. Here’s a mix of both: “Heaven’s a small town / slowly dying out // Hell’s crowded, an apartment / filled with folks who want / something better. // Fire / trucks trapped / in traffic, / backed up because / someone’s stopped / to watch. Stubborn neon. / Hell’s open / all night & dawn’s / an afterthought.”

  9. 4 out of 5

    Heather Renfroe

    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 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 sometimes bluesy, sometimes jazzy rhythm, doesn't offer much variety. These lines include a lot of clever word play using film noir lingo, but don't leave the lingo to take us any deeper. So the reader is given a film in words, no more.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Peggy

    The dust jacket calls this, "Film noir in verse." These are stunning poems. Together, they tell a noir story--a film. Separately, each is packed with arresting images and beautifully rendered language. Young is a master of the pithy line: "She split so quick / I got motion-sick." "My car, that dinosaur, / runs on memories," "I was wrong as a sweater / on a sheepdog." I borrowed this from a family-member, but it's a good book to own. Read sequentially, hurriedly, it's harder to appreciate the cra The dust jacket calls this, "Film noir in verse." These are stunning poems. Together, they tell a noir story--a film. Separately, each is packed with arresting images and beautifully rendered language. Young is a master of the pithy line: "She split so quick / I got motion-sick." "My car, that dinosaur, / runs on memories," "I was wrong as a sweater / on a sheepdog." I borrowed this from a family-member, but it's a good book to own. Read sequentially, hurriedly, it's harder to appreciate the craft of each line.

  11. 4 out of 5

    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. 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.

  12. 5 out of 5

    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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    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. 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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    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. 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.

  15. 4 out of 5

    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!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    coolest poet in the game.

  17. 4 out of 5

    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. 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.

  18. 5 out of 5

    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. 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bob

  21. 4 out of 5

    David Arroyo

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shelby

  23. 5 out of 5

    Isaiah Vianese

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jon-Michael Dreher

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Taylor

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jim

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rob

  28. 5 out of 5

    Robert Costic

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mely

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ed Skoog

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