Kevin Young selected as CalArts Writer-in-ResidenceMai Nguyen Do January 23, 2019 0 COMMENTS
Kevin Young, an award-winning poet and poetry editor for The New Yorker, has been selected as the California Institute of the Arts 2019 Katie Jacobson Writer-in-Residence. Young is also the director of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.
“Brown,” Young’s most recent book of poetry, was called “a universal shout— political in the best, most visceral way—while remaining at the same time deeply and lovingly personal” by the New York Times.
“The moves Kevin has made in the arts exemplify the kind of creative life we celebrate in our program, explored not on a single track, but through interrelated fields of inquiry, experimentation and play,” director of CalArts’ MFA Creative Writing Program Tisa Bryant said. “His work is inventive, incisive and crucial to the conversation we’re always having about life, art and how we make the culture we live in.”
Young’s “Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts and Fake News,” which was published in 2017, received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in Nonfiction and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award. In “Bunk,” Young explores the connection of hoax to legitimacy, power and race. During his research for the book, he found racism to be a central player in the history of false information.
Bryant noted the political relevance and timeliness of Young’s work as an important aspect of his visit to CalArts. “Kevin’s visit comes at the right time, as we puzzle through the spectacular events of this particular moment,” Bryant said.
Despite some misconceptions that it is in decline, poetry has seen a recent resurgence into mainstream popular culture. The original Netflix film, “The Kindergarten Teacher,” features poetry from contemporary American writers Kaveh Akbar, Ocean Vuong and Dominique Townsend. According the National Endowment for the Arts, roughly 28 million American adults read poetry, a 15-year high. In October of 2018, the city of Santa Clarita collected poems from local residents to paint onto sidewalks in 2019 as part of the citywide Sidewalk Poetry Project.
“I do think we’re in a really interesting moment in poetry,” Young said. “The strength of poetry is due to its diversity and its breadth.”
As part of his residency, Young will conduct workshops with CalArts students in the MFA Creative Writing Program and participate in public readings at CalArts on February 7 at 7:00 p.m. and at REDCAT in Downtown Los Angeles on February 8 at 8:30 p.m.
“Poetry is more important than ever for people,” Young said. “You see people turning to poetry to learn more about themselves and each other. I think it’s an important time to emphasize that.”
Mai Nguyen Do is a Vietnamese American poet and researcher. She is a lifelong Santa Clarita resident and a College of the Canyons graduate. She is also the author of Ghosts Still Walking (2016) and Battlefield Blooming (2019). Find her on Twitter @DoNguyenMai.