There's something especially noble about spending your life carving out verse. Kevin Young is one of those valorous types, having produced a wealth of poems that transport the reader and explode the form. My favorite poems from his new book, Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems 1995–2015 (Knopf), are the ones I want to rescue him from: "The Ball" (a final clutch with one so wrong, she tempts like a narcotic), "The Alibi" (drinking alone, heartbroken).

There is such music to Young's work that it's often assumed he's a musician; he has the instinct for when to drop in a full orchestra ("Revival") or a tin cup and pencil ("Black Cat Blues"). His recalling of the rooms he's passed through and remains haunted by can relocate you, making the experience of reading him a kind of traveling.

He provokes appetite for food, sleep and sex and can deliver the ache of a silence between two people with a precision that smarts, as in "Sleepwalking Psalms": "we'd lie beside the other awake, ... a child snoring between us, slightly, / child we'll never have." The poems from his 2014 collection, Book of Hours, focus on grieving his father and becoming one himself. It is perhaps that trajectory from loss to birth that makes him keenly aware that each second is a letting go of the son he had the moment before. You get the sense of a man discovering how to give thanks, how to say grace.


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