Both were given the same texts to write about—four articles on and quotes by the very recently deceased James Brown, Robert Altman, Gerald Ford, and Saddam Hussein. The results are stunning, especially Kevin Young’s work made me hold my breath. In his poem about James Brown he mentions that he saw him scheduled "at B. B. King’s on New Year’s Eve" a few days after Mr Brown died. He probably refers to the bit in The New Yorker.
Here are some lines from the other three poems that really got me…
second poem "Teething": "The mouth is the most / potent instrument an infant / possesses" … "Drool / is your muse" … "The bell / of your mouth ringing / in morning."
from his third poem "New Year Letter": "& even the girl // in her fading dress / as if the dead need nothing / except our memories."
from his fourth poem "New Year’s Letter": "the ghosts / of the words / that go away."
Needless to say, David Lehman’s four poems are also worth reading, especially the first and the fourth one. I also like the last stanza of his second piece "Poem in Three Parts": "The dictator wrote / novels but the poet / didn’t dictate foreign policy."
Take the time and read all of the eight poems. It will be worth your while.
Daily Cartoon (January 11)