Poet Kevin Young is building an accomplished career from the detritus of pop culture past. He subtitled his 2003 collection, Jelly Roll, "A Blues," and that it was, all sly and sexy wordplay, the poet's very real pain shrugged off with a wiseass grin. He continues to spin high art from low, old forms of expression in Black Maria (Knopf). A "film noir in verse," it follows the comings and goings, the ups and very low downs of private eye A.K.A. Jones and femme fatale Delilah Redbone. "Poems Produced and Directed by Kevin Young," the cover declares, and the pages are full of such stylized cuteness: the cast of characters includes the Gunsel, the Snitch, and Goon #2 (Goon #1 is conspicuously absent), and Young's wickedly fond of puns. "On my door I hung a sign: / gone wishing. back in 5. / Ashtray full of butts / & maybes," runs one verse, more tongue-in-cheek than hard-bitten. The book boils jest, smart asides, and caustic observation into a kind of noir essence at the bottom of the pot. There's no love in Young's Shadowtown, it's clear, and Delilah seems more weary than relieved when she at last abandons Jones to rue, as the genre demands, "Darkness edges out dusk / by a nose & night's / just another wager / I've lost." Fri 2/18, 7 PM, 57th Street Books, 1301 E. 57th, 773-684-1300.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Tod Martens.