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David Young, the distinguished poet and translator, offers us a gorgeous cycle of poems attuned to the Midwestern seasons—to weather both emotional and actual. A writer of thrilling invention and humanity, Young beckons the reader into an effortless proximity with the fox at the field’s edge, with the chattering crow and the startling first daffodils of spring. In his tour of both exterior and interior landscapes, the poet scatters his father’s ashes and remembers losing his wife, Chloe, to cancer, a loss at times still fresh after several decades; pays homage to the wisdom of the Chinese masters whose aesthetic has helped shape his own; and reflects on the gladdening qualities of a walk in a snowstorm with his black labrador, Nemo:
and in this snowfall that I should detest,
late March and early April, I’m still rapt
to see his coat so constellated, starred, re-starred,
making a comic cosmos I can love.
Young’s expert shaping of this world in which, as he writes, “We’re never going to get God right. But we learn to love all our failures on the way,” becomes for the reader a fresh experience of life’s mysterious goodness and of the abundant pleasure of the language that embodies it.
"David Young has served the art form of poetry for so long, in so many ways—as a poet, an editor, a scholar, a translator (from several languages) and as a legendary teacher—that sometimes his own poems, his greatest achievement, have been under-read. That should not be so and Black Lab is a book which will remind readers how deeply moving, important, and original his poems are." —Thomas Lux
"That time shall prove to be a friend, shall augment our powers rather than eroding them, shall nurture wisdom, flexibility, aptness, wit: how rare are the poems that make this wish reality. How heartening when such poems appear, as they do, in abundance, in David Young's Black Lab. Mortality leaves its prints all over the page, like a big black dog, and, gorgeous, unstoppable, pulls on its leash toward joy-in-the-moment, sorrow-in-joy. Black Lab is the richest, and most richly poised, of Young's fine books."
“In keeping with the whole heart of all his work, David Young’s Black Lab draws from a variety of sources—a fellowship of poets, an intimacy of landscape, a celebration of the elegy—yet comes, in each of the poems, to a single, and singular, place of rest, calm, and clarity. There is a quality of beatitude, an elevation of the quotidian, a defining of value here. This is a book to carry, to rejoice in on those dark days.” —Stanley Plumly
“Nemo, the black lab this book is named for, is a happy dog, and a source of happiness to the poet; and David Young is a happy poet, I think, who sees and cherishes the world whose sadness he does not deny, but whose sacredness and rareness he turns back and back to with quiet tenderness.” —Jean Valentine
“There is a quality of the pure poet in David Young, she, he, who strives to find the spirit in the thing—without betraying the sheer senselessness, the surprise, the heartache, with false music, by false thought. This is courage—and knowledge. His struggle is always, always, with existence itself; his chief virtue is loyalty to his song.” —Gerald Stern