al young.jpg

Al Young was born on May 31, 1939 in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Young first attended the University of Michigan, then went out west to attend Stanford and The University of California Berkley, attaining a major in Spanish. After marrying Arline Young in 1963, Young had one child, Michael. Young then went on to teach poetry to an abundant number of colleges such as Stanford, UC Berkley, Rice University, and Charles University in the Czech Republic. Young earned two American Book awards, the PEN-USA award for non-fiction, and many more awards.

-- "FAQ." AlYoungorg RSS. Web. 22 Jan. 2016
-- "Al Young Biography -" Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
-- Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.


She talks too loud, her face
a blur of wrinkles & sunshine
where her hard hair shivers
from laughter like a pine tree
5 stiff with oil & hotcombing

O & her anger realer than gasoline
slung into fire or lighted mohair
She’s a clothes lover from way back
but her body’s too big to be chic
10 or on cue so she wear what she want
People just gotta stand back &
take it like they do Easter Sunday when
the rainbow she travels is dry-cleaned

She laughs more than ever in spring
15 stomping the downtowns, Saturday past
work, looking into JC Penney’s checking
out Sears & bragging about how when she
feel like it she gon lose weight &
give up smoking one of these sorry days

20 Her eyes are diamonds of pure dark space
& the air flying out of them as you look
close is only the essence of living
to tell, a full-length woman, an aunt
brown & red with stalking the years.

-- "Bing." Aunt Jemima. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.

"Aunt" is a poem that expresses how this Aunt is a very happy woman with her physical appearance having no effect on her joy in life. Lines 1-5 show us that her physical appearance is unappealing, she is too loud, and you just have to take her with a grain of salt. No matter what anyone feels of her, her happiness and beauty comes from within. In this time period of being written, a southern African American woman is looked down upon by every white man or woman out there. To her, however, she is as beautiful as God wants her to bed and she is perfectly fine with that. The next paragraph talks about how when she gets angry, it is like fuel to the fire, like said in lines 6-7. Lines 8-10 talk about how she loves fashion, even though she is a larger woman. Once again talking about how she is who she is, no matter what people think of that. So far in this poem, Young has greatly talked about her many flaws and her not even caring about those flaws. Lines 11-13 uses a simile in order to get across that you have to love her for her, because no matter what people think of her, if it is not what she wants them to think, she does not care about it. The following paragraph uses her southern accent in line 18 saying "she gon lose weight" in order to show her southern heritage and how an African American woman was raised in the South. She is as happy as can be in the springtime, given by the first line in this paragraph, "laughs more than ever in spring." She is a happy soul because that is how she was raised. "Her eyes are diamonds of pure dark space" (line 20) is a beautiful metaphor. This metaphor is used to show how her eyes are a sparkling light in even the darkest moments. Young uses comparisons in "Aunt" to give a greater meaning to a normally bland object such as eyes or looking at a crazy woman, turning them into what really makes this Aunt a wonderful, beautiful figure in Young's life. She shows him the beauty in loving who you are for being yourself and not trying to impress others just to make yourself happy. She is the comfort in a darker time, which gives him hope. I used the picture of Aunt Jemima because to me, she represents a happy African American woman, and we all know she is never unhappy.

Birthday Poem

First light of day in Mississippi
son of laborer & of house wife
it says so on the official photostat
not son of fisherman & child fugitive
5 from cottonfields & potato patches
from sugarcane chickens & well-water
from kerosene lamps & watermelons
mules named jack or jenny & wagonwheels,

years of meaningless farm work
10 work Work WORK WORK WORK—
“Papa pull you outta school bout March
to stay on the place & work the crop”
—her own earliest knowledge
of human hopelessness & waste

15 She carried me around nine months
inside her fifteen year old self
before here I sit numbering it all

How I got from then to now
20 is the mystery that could fill a whole library
much less an arbitrary stanza

But of course you already know about that
from your own random suffering
& sudden inexplicable bliss

al young farm boy.jpg

-- "Bing." Young African American Boy Working the Farms. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.

Al Young's "Birthday Poem" has a gloomy feel to it through this poems dark word choice. The first paragraph introduces the setting and background behind his life. By the means of the government, he is the "son of a laborer and house wife." That is how the government sees his situation. A young boy being raised by a set of hard working parents. His situation is a very different story in Young being raised by "fisherman and child fugitive," said in lines 2 and 4. The second paragraph gives the introduction of the mom's first awareness of how sad the future for her son is going to be. Lines 13-14 give clear proof of the last thought, saying "her own earliest knowledge of hopelessness and waste." The "house wife" carried Young around for 9 months, not wanting his future to be filled with farming while not advancing his education and making a better life for himself. Young uses another analogy in lines 19-21, relating how he is not sure how he started in the farms, having to stop school in march in order to help with the crops to now writing poetry, singing, and living a beautiful life. His life has been through many ups and downs, and that is what these few lines pointed out to me. By using the last paragraph in the way of saying how we have ups and downs too, he says that everyone has their own story like his, some more than others, but in our lives even today, we have ups and downs. Sometimes having to suffer is the only way to be enabled to experience that "inexplicable bliss" he was talking about in line 24. This poem gives me the feeling that his life story started in a very bad spot for him, and for anybody else, that could be anything, but in the end, if we just strive for greatness, we will succeed. The name "Birthday Poem" is used to signify that when he was born, all of his troubles first began with having to tend to the field instead of going to school past march. It is not a happy birthday poem, but instead a very dark and sad poem about the beginning of a new troubled life. The illustration I found best fit for the "Birthday Poem" is this one because it shows an African American family having to work the field together just to get by.

So Is There Life On You, Moon?

So is there life on you, Moon?
Some mystics say yes & most
scientists say no. What do
you say, moon of moons?
Is there life on you?

How about inside those rocks
of yours? Are you sure
there isn’t some microscopic
form of mini-seeded life-
in-embryo embedded or pillowed
in the dandruff you harbor
by all your dead & tranquil seas?

It’s fun to talk about all this,
but academic, you must admit.
I look at you & know you’re partly me.
For now, that’s life enough.

-- "Five Poems by Al Young." Five Poems by Al Young. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. <>.

Lines 1 through 5 when first taken at face value gives the impression that Al Young is merely pondering the at large question, is the moon inhabitable? When I dug a little deeper, the second and third lines stuck out to me, keeping the idea that people have different views on every subject, from the well educated professionals to the everyday people. Only one view, however is truly relevant, and that is your own. This idea brings me back to the feeling Al Young gives for the previous few poems, which is that with hope, your idea is the only one that truly matters. Only the moon truly knows if there is life, but skipping ahead to line 16, Young says "For now, that's life enough." No matter what anyone else says, this hope Young has is all that he listens to and cares about, making it his own belief. The second paragraph drills in my hypothesis, asking if anyone has checked inside of every "rock" or in every bit of "dandruff" on the moon. This says that without 100 percent proof that there is no life, Young is going to continue to hope and believe in what he believes. Young enjoys talking about this in a casual and academic way, said in lines 13 and 14, but in the end, it is only his opinion that he truly cares about, which is the same in every poem he writes about. It is okay to talk and compare, but it is essential to think for yourself, otherwise, key innovations in society will never happen, because we will be satisfied with what is being told to us, not digging deeper and having our own ideas about anything in this small world, leading this question about the moon to no longer serve relevance. Without individualism, questions as the poem's title will only have one answer, and that is what is easiest to explain.

"Bing." Moon. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. <>.
"Bing." Moon. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. <>.

-- "Bing." Moon. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. <>.

Dreams of Paradise
Ive had dreams of Paradise where all you do is open your heart& let the endlessness ooze out. It is quite something to go thru.One night in Detroit—the death of my stepfather—weary &hopeful of everything, I lay in bed grieving & wondering,whereupon, 4 in the morn, the whole room began to expand &I with it, giddy with silent affirmation—that is to say: It wasthe feeling I feel each of us is rightfully entitled to & it doesn’thappen out in the world of gold & crashing but is a perfectwithinness, a peacefulness & surprise that is unkillable

-- "Five Poems by Al Young." Five Poems by Al Young. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. <>.

This poem experiences the highs and lows in Young's life, talking about his step-father dying in line 3, and then "a peacefulness" that occurred afterwards. Al Young's "dreams of Paradise" in the first line give the early tone of the poem that in the end, his hope for "Paradise" will be clear and met at some point in time. With these dreams, Young opened up letting his happiness of a great future, the "endlessness" of his dreams, surround him, giving him the passion to let it overtake him. After the death of his step-father, while grieving, his mind of passion and hope was fully awakened for the first time, which is a truly amazing experiencing. He kept his hope alive, which is a constant theme throughout the set of poems he writes about, enabling himself to feel the "rightfully entitled" experience he was talking about in line 7. His eyes were fully opened, said by "the whole room began to expand" in line 5. Out of the lower points in life can you find true happiness, implies Young from this section. The hope that comes out of the low points in life is said best by the very last word used in this poem, most likely put there for emphasis. "Unkillable" is a very heavy word meaning that death has allowed him a hope and joy that he will never lose, which is a truly amazing gift.


-- "Bing." Paradise. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. <>.