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Young’s New Poetry Collection Retraces the South

Emory University professor and poet Kevin Young has released a collection of poems, titled "For the Confederate Dead," about returning to the South and "wrestling with some of the demons of history and war."

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  • KEVIN YOUNG:

    Both of my parents were from Louisiana, rural southern segregated Louisiana, and I often write about that, and that brought me to my new book, "For the Confederate Dead," which is very much about the South, and returning to the South, and also wrestling with some of the demons of history and war.

    I grew up in Kansas. I was born in Lincoln, Neb., and moved around a lot. I do come from a long line of musicians and preachers and storytellers. I think that just growing up in the South like my parents did, that was part of life.

    I think the title, "For the Confederate Dead," is both ironic and also reverent. I think also trying to reclaim that word and change the word "Confederate" a little bit. I guess my new definition of Confederate is the old definition, as in a friend, an ally. I was trying to honor this history, and make up my own Confederates, from Gwendolyn Brooks, who opens the book, to Lionel Hampton, the jazz musician, to my friend, Filippe Wamba, who died.

    This is "Redemption Song," a poem about personal grief but also about the transformative power of beauty and the healing power of time.

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