Wordstock Week: Kevin Young

Kevin Young

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This week, we’re proud to feature work from some favorite Tin House contributors who’ll be appearing at Wordstock, Portland’s book festival, on November 5th. Catch Young on the panel Tales of Two Americas: Inequality in the United States with Karen Russell, Richard Russo, and John Freeman. “Ring of Fire” first appeared in Tin House #37: The Political Issue.



At the strip
club we come

for the ladies but stay
for the buffet.

In Vegas we feel paradoxical
as jumbo shrimp–

Everything here is for sale
& what’s not

for sale is free.
In walks Dennis Rodman

hat pulled low, wearing a disguise
in hopes

of getting recognized. Between dances
they announce him

over a microphone
like bingo.

When we return
to our hotel, dawn

has long gone
& the pool slowly fills

with fools drained
like us.

We brown our already
brown bellies

& I ask my buddy
Think anyone

would guess us black
boys are a doctor

& a professor?
It’s not that folks can’t

imagine it, just
they don’t even bother

to consider us
at all. Unlike us,

our drinks are expensive
& too strong. All night long

at the Hold’em table
we’ll gamble it all

like tin men hoping
for hearts.


Kevin Young is the author of ten books of poetry, including Book of Hours, winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets and a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Award; Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels, winner of a 2012 American Book Award; and Jelly Roll: A Blues, a finalist for the National Book Award. He is also the editor of The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink and seven other collections. His book The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness won the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize, was a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism, and won the PEN Open Book Award. He is currently the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Creative Writing and English and curator of both Literary Collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University.