Last year, Young accepted a job in New York to become the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a Harlem research unit of the New York Public Library system.
Young has served as the curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library and of the Literary Collections at Emory’s Rose Library. In January, Young was appointed to serve a three-year term as University Distinguished Professor.
He recently published a collection of poetry, “Blue Laws: Selected and Uncollected Poems 1995-2015.”
The son of an ophthalmologist and a chemist from Louisiana, Young moved six times before he was 10 as his parents pursued their careers. He has lived in Kansas, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York, among other places. While attending Harvard University, he studied under poets Seamus Heaney and Lucie Brock-Broido and joined the Dark Room Collective, a group of black writers that included fellow poet Natasha Trethewey.
Young taught poetry at the University of Georgia and Indiana University before moving to Emory. His collection of essays, “The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness,” won the PEN Open Book Award. And his poetry collection “Jelly Roll: A Blues” was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Music, and blues in particular is an inspiration for Young. He connects it to the tragicomic writing of Langston Hughes, the author of the short story collection, “Laughing to Keep from Crying.”
A more serious poem about the death of his father, “Bereavement.” Tells the story through a pair of beloved dogs that were left behind after his father was killed in a hunting accident.
Young’s pain is palpable in the piece.
They do not bark.
Do they know he is dead?
They wag their tails & head. They beg & are fed.
Their grief is colossal & forgetful.
Each day they wake seeking his voice, their names.