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Sun, 11.08.1970

Kevin Young, Poet, and Administrator born

Kevin Young

*Kevin Young was born on this date in 1970.  He is a Black poet, teacher, and administrator.  

Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, he is the only child of two working parents, his father, Dr. Paul E. Young, an ophthalmologist, and his mother, Dr. Azzie Young, a chemist. Due to the careers of both of his parents, Young lived in six different places before he reached the age of ten, but his family ultimately settled in Topeka, Kansas. He first began to pursue writing when he was thirteen years old after he attended a summer writing class at Washburn University.  

He attended Harvard College, where he studied with writer Colson Whitehead. He graduated in 1992, then held a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University. Young received his Master of Fine Arts from Brown University, where Michael S. Harper significantly influenced him. While in Boston and Providence, he was part of the Black poetry group the Dark Room Collective. He is heavily influenced by the poets Langston Hughes, John Berryman, and Emily Dickinson and by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.  

Young wrote much of his debut collection, Most Way Home, while still an undergraduate in 1995; it was selected by Lucille Clifton for the National Poetry Series and won Ploughshares's John C. Zacharis First Book Award.  Young has described his next three books, To Repel Ghosts (named for a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting), Jelly Roll (a collection of love poems named after Jelly Roll Morton), and Black Maria as an "American trilogy," calling the series Devil's Music. Jelly Roll was a finalist for the National Book Award. Young was named a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow in 2003 and NEA Literature Fellow in Poetry.  Young's collection, The Book of Hours, won the 2015 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize.  

He has written on art and artists for museums in Los Angeles and Minneapolis. As of 2021, author of 11 books and editor of eight others, Young lives in New York. He is married to Kate Tuttle, a book columnist at The Boston Globe; Tuttle and Young married in 2005. After teaching at the University of Georgia and Indiana University, Young now teaches writing at Emory University, where he is the Atticus Haygood Professor of English and Creative Writing, as well as the curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, a large collection of the first and rare editions of poetry in English. In 2016, Young became the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library.  In 2017, he was the poetry editor of The New Yorker.  

Young is working on two books, a non-fiction book called Bunk on the U.S. history of lies and hoaxes and a poetry collection he's described as being "about African American history and also personal history, growing up in Kansas, which has a long black history including Langston Hughes and others."   In January 2021, he became the director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  

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Ethel Waters sleeps in the stable Looking up at the moon and the stars- It's a bright night in Lexington, Kentucky,- But the Colored Folks in town will not Rent a room... THE DEVILS MUSIC IN HELL (for Billie Holiday) by Julius E. Thompson.
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