Kevin Young’s “Crowning”

Kevin Young is the author of eight volumes of poetry, including Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels (Knopf, 2011), which won an American Book Award, and Book of Hours (forthcoming in 2014). He is also the editor of eight other collections, most recently The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink and The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton (with Michael S. Glaser), both published in 2012. The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (Graywolf, 2012) won the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize and was a New York Times Notable book of the year as well sa a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. Young is the Atticus Haygood Professor of Creative Writing & English and Curator of Literary Collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University in Atlanta.

Kevin Young

This Wednesday at 4:00 PM, Kevin Young will join a group of five poets in a reading to celebrate Natasha Trethewey’s year as Poet Laureate. He’ll join poets Patricia Smith and Marilyn Chin, whose work we’ve recently featured on this blog, as well as Brenda Shaughnessy and Brian Turner. Together, these five poets represent the various and powerful ways poetry can speak to the experiences that bind us—not only culturally but privately, and in the most personal of moments.

Kevin Young’s “Crowning” celebrates the birth of his son. In the past week, our featured readers have discussed their poems as part of a larger historical and political context; in this poem, Young reminds us of the power of the most fundamental mysteries of human existence.

 

Crowning

Now that knowing means nothing,
now that you are more born
than being, more awake
than awaited, since I’ve seen
your hair deep inside mother,
a glimpse, grass in late
winter, early spring, watching
your mother’s pursed, throbbing,
purpled power, her pushing
you for one whole hour, two,
almost three, almost out,
maybe never, animal smell
and peat, breath and sweat
and mulch-matter, and at once
you descend, or drive, are driven
by mother’s body, by her will
and brilliance, by bowel,
by wanting and your hair
peering as if it could see, and I saw
you storming forth,
taproot, your cap of hair half
in, half out, and wait, hold
it there, the doctors say, and
she squeezing my hand, her face
full of fire, then groaning your face
out like a flower, blood-bloom,
crocused into air, shoulders
and the long cord still rooting
you to each other, to the other
world, into this afterlife
among us living, the cord
I cut like an iris, pulsing,
then you wet against mother’s chest
still purple, not blue, not yet
red, no cry,
warming now, now opening
your eyes midnight
blue in the blue black dawn.

 

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