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Monday, February 13, 2017

Fwd: Monday's poet is Jake Adam York




Although Jake Adam York was born in West Palm Beach, Florida on August 10th, 1972, his family soon returned to Alabama where generations of his family had lived and where York grew up. He earned a BA from Auburn University in Alabama, and both a MA and a Ph.D. from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He was an associate professor at the University of Colorado-Denver. Before his unexpected death from a stroke on December 16, 2012 at age forty, he had published three award-winning collections of poetry: Murder Ballads (Elixir Press, 2005), chosen for the Elixir Prize in Poetry by Jane Sutterfield, A Murmuration of Starlings (Southern Illinois University Press, 2008), which won the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition Award and the Colorado Book Award, and Persons Unknown (Southern Illinois University Press, 2010). A fourth collection Abide (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014) was published posthumously and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. 

Much of Jake Adam York's poetry concerns racial violence and murder, especially during the Civil Rights struggles in the South. After a lot of hesitation and self-reflection, York, a white Southerner, started a long-term project to elegize the martyrs of the Civil Rights movement. In an interview with Gregory Donovan published in the journal Blackbird, York said "I've been struggling with this aesthetic problem of how to write about history that's terrible without offending the history, offending the victims of the history. On the one hand, you want to bear witness to the terror of it with the terror of your own. But on the other hand, you have on opportunity in memory to offer a kind of consolatory vision." 

This week's featured poem is "Bunk Richardson," from Murder Ballads (Elixir Press, 2005). The central event took place in York's home town of Gadsden, Alabama, although York did not learned about it until the publication of James Allen's book, Without Sanctuary. 

BUNK RICHARDSON

                    Lynching photograph February 11, 1906: Gadsden, Alabama

The rope grips the iron
where the iron bites into its hold. 
A noose of rust, dried blood. 

The dew has frozen in its twines, 
thicker near the river, 
from which it's climbed

weaker and weaker, all night long.