Kevin Young’s Beautiful New Poem for The National
“Whistle,” by The New Yorker’s resident genius, is full of hope and omens
The first thing to note about Kevin Young, the recently appointed poetry editor at The New Yorker, is his range. A survey of the 47-year-old Nebraska native’s output includes fictional telegrams to Jean-Michel Basquiat; a book-length elegy for his father; and an epic poem, written over the course of twenty years, about the Amistad rebellion. He’s as likely to allude to Jay-Z as he is W. E. B. Du Bois, and his style can slide from the richly metaphorical to the plainly vernacular in a single stanza. In Young’s new poem for The National, “Whistle,” as in much of his work, omens abound—distant thunder, a “drought-fed lawn”—but we’re left with a moment of calm: the simple solace of a train arriving on time, and the hope that it brings.