Young’s visit to the College of Charleston is in conjunction with the exhibition Renee Stout: Tales of the Conjure Woman (October 18-December 14). This traveling exhibition, originated by the Halsey Institute, explores the contours of the African American experience and the existence of an underground system of African-derived folk beliefs as transmitted from slavery to the present. This system, known variously as Hoodoo or conjuring, has its origins in herbal medicine, root work, and a belief in the spiritual attributes of plants and animals. Through the use of mixed media, including painting, sculpture, installation, and photography Stout, and her alter ego Fatima Mayfield, present a glimpse into this shadowy world. Kevin Young was commissioned to write an essay and series of poems based on the ideas emanating from Stout’s work for the exhibition catalogue. Entitled Book of Hours: An Evening of Poetry & Conjure by Kevin Young, the reading will feature some of the poems from the Stout catalogue along with an assortment of older and newer works.
Kevin Young is the author of eight books of poetry, including Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels, winner of an American Book Award, and Jelly Roll, a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize. Young’s book The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness was named a New York Times Notable Book for 2012, and won the 2013 PEN Open Book Award.
Kevin Young has an A.B. in English and American Literature from Harvard University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Brown University. Young has been the recipient numerous awards and fellowships, including a Stegner Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford University, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a NEA Fellowship, and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship. In 2009 he was named the United States Artist James Baldwin Fellow. His next volume of poetry is Book of Hours, forthcoming from Knopf in March 2014. He is currently Atticus Haygood Professor of Creative Writing & English and Curator of Literary Collections & the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University in Atlanta.
About Young’s work, the poet Lucille Clifton has said, “This poet’s gift of storytelling and understanding of the music inherent in the oral tradition of language re-creates for us an inner history which is compelling and authentic and American.” Kevin Young will speak to students in the afternoon of November 6, and will follow with a public lecture at 7:00pm in Alumni Hall, in Randolph Hall, in the heart of the College’s campus.
For more information and for a full listing of Friends of the Library events, please visit fol.cofc.edu.