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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Al Young
Al Young in 2018
Al Young in 2018
Born(1939-05-31)May 31, 1939
Ocean Springs, Mississippi, U.S.
DiedApril 17, 2021(2021-04-17) (aged 81)
Concord, California, U.S.
Alma materUC Berkeley (BA)
University of Michigan
Notable awardsPoet Laureate of California 2005–2008

Albert James Young[1] (May 31, 1939 – April 17, 2021) was an American poet, novelist, essayist, screenwriter, and professor.

On May 15, 2005, he was named Poet Laureate of California by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In appointing Young as Poet Laureate, the Governor praised him: "He is an educator and a man with a passion for the Arts. His remarkable talent and sense of mission to bring poetry into the lives of Californians is an inspiration." Muriel Johnson, Director of the California Arts Council declared: "Like jazz, Al Young is an original American voice."[2] Young's many books included novels, collections of poetry, essays, and memoirs. His work appeared in literary journals and magazines including Paris Review, Ploughshares,[3] Essence, The New York Times, Chicago Review,[4] Seattle Review, Brilliant Corners: A Journal of Jazz & Literature, Chelsea, Rolling Stone, Gathering of the Tribes, and in anthologies including the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, and the Oxford Anthology of African American Literature.[5][6]

Early life

Born May 31, 1939, in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, on the Gulf Coast near Biloxi,[7] Young grew up in the rural South of villages and small towns, and in urban, industrial Detroit. From 1957 to 1960 he attended the University of Michigan, where he co-edited Generation, the campus literary magazine. In 1961 he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. Settling at first in Berkeley, he held a wide variety of jobs (folksinger, lab aide, disk jockey, medical photographer, clerk typist, employment counselor) before graduating with honors from U.C. Berkeley with a degree in Spanish.

Teaching career

Young taught poetry, fiction writing and American literature at U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Santa Cruz, U.C. Davis, Bowling Green State University, Foothill College, the Colorado College, Rice University, the University of Washington, the University of Michigan, and the University of Arkansas. He also taught at Charles University in the Czech Republic under the auspices of the Prague Summer Programs.

From 1969 to 1976 he was Edward B. Jones Lecturer in Creative Writing at Stanford near Palo Alto, where he lived and worked for three decades.[5][6]

In 2002, he was appointed the San José State University Lurie Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing.

In the spring of 2003 he taught poetry at Davidson College (Davidson, NC), where he was McGee Professor in Writing.

In the fall of 2003, as the first Coffey Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, he taught a poetry workshop.

From 2003 to 2006 he served on the faculty of Cave Canem's summer workshop retreats for African American poets.

Honors and awards

He twice received the American Book Award, for Bodies and Soul: Musical Memoirs (1982) and The Sound of Dreams Remembered: Poems 1990-2000 (2002).[5][6]

Young was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) from Whittier College in 2009.[8]

In the 1970s, he wrote film scripts for producer Joseph Strick, Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, and Richard Pryor.

In the 1980s and 1990s, as a cultural ambassador for the United States Information Agency, he traveled throughout South Asia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian West Bank.

In 2001 he traveled to the Persian Gulf to lecture on American and African-American literature and culture in Kuwait and in Bahrain for the U.S. Department of State. Subsequent lecture tours took him to Southern Italy in 2004, and to Italy in 2005. His poetry and prose have been translated into Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Serbo-Croatian, Polish, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, German, Urdu, Korean, and other languages. Blending story, recitation and song, Young often performed with musicians.[5][6]

  • Wallace Stegner,
  • Guggenheim,[9]
  • Fulbright,
  • National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships,[10]
  • the PEN-Library of Congress Award for Short Fiction,
  • the PEN-USA Award for Non-Fiction,
  • two Pushcart Prizes,
  • two The New York Times Notable Book of the year citations,
  • Arts Council Silicon Valley Fellowship,
  • Stephen Henderson Achievement Award for Poetry,
  • Radio Pacifica's KPFA Peace Prize,
  • Glenna Luschei Distinguished Poetry Fellowship
  • Richard Wright Award for Excellence in Literature.

Family life and death

His was married to technical writer and editor Arline Young. They had one child, Michael. In 2000 he returned to Berkeley, where he continued to freelance.[5][6]

In February 2019, Young suffered a stroke. He died of complications of the stroke on April 17, 2021 in Concord, California.[1][11][12]

Published works

Full-Length Poetry Collections

  • Something About the Blues: An Unlikely Collection of Poetry (Sourcebooks MediaFusion, 2008)
  • Coastal Nights and Inland Afternoons: Poems 2001-2006 (Angel City Press, 2006)
  • The Sound of Dreams Remembered: Poems 1990-2000 (Creative Arts Book Company, 2001)
  • Heaven: Collected Poems: 1956-1990 (Creative Arts Book Company, 1992)
  • The Blues Don't Change: New and Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 1982)
  • Geography of the Near Past (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1976)
  • The Song Turning Back into Itself (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971)
  • Dancing (Corinth Books, 1969)


  • Conjugal Visits (Creative Arts Book Company, 1996)
  • Straight No Chaser (Creative Arts Book, 2011)

Musical Memoirs

  • Drowning in the Sea of Love (Ecco Press, 1995)
  • Mingus Mingus: Two Memoirs (with Janet Coleman, Creative Arts Book Company, 1989)
  • Things Ain't What They Used to Be (Creative Arts Book Company, 1986)
  • Kinds of Blue (Creative Arts Book Company, 1984)
  • Bodies & Soul (Creative Arts Book Company, 1981)


  • Seduction By Light (Delta Fiction, 1988)
  • Ask Me Now (New York: McGraw-Hill; San Francisco: San Francisco Book Co., 1980)
  • Sitting Pretty (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976)
  • Who Is Angelina? (University of California Press, 1996, 1975)
  • Snakes (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970)


  • Jazz Idiom: blueprints, stills, and frames : the jazz photography of Charles L. Robinson (photographs and comments by Charles L. Robinson, poetic takes and riffs by Al Young, Heyday Books, 2008)

Anthologies Edited

  • The Literature of California, Volume 1: Native American Beginnings to 1945 (with Jack Hicks, James D. Houston and Maxine Hong Kingston, eds., University of California Press, 2000)
  • African American Literature: A Brief Introduction and Anthology (HarperCollins College Publishers, 1996)
  • Yardbird Lives! (co-edited with Ishmael Reed, Grove Press, 1978)



  1. ^ a b Genzlinger, Neil (April 23, 2021). "Al Young, Poet With a Musical Bent, Is Dead at 81". The New York Times. Retrieved April 24, 2021.
  2. ^ "State of California > Office of the Governor > Press Release: Governor Schwarzenegger Appoints Al Young Poet Laureate > May 12, 2005". Archived from the original on July 24, 2011. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  3. ^ "Read By Author | Ploughshares".
  4. ^ "Chicago Review > 21:4 Summer 1970 > AL YOUNG > For Jack Spicer". Archived from the original on 2013-05-15. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
  5. ^ a b c d e Al Young's Author Website Archived 2009-04-11 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b c d e "John C. Smith University > Lyceum Series - Fall 2008 > Al Young, California State Poet Laureate and Woodrow Wilson Fellow > Wednesday, November 5, 2008, Reading > Al Young Biography". Archived from the original on March 9, 2009.
  7. ^ Poets, Academy of American. "About Al Young | Academy of American Poets".
  8. ^ "Honorary Degrees | Whittier College". Retrieved 2020-01-28.
  9. ^ "John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation > Fellows Search: Al Young > 1974 Creative Arts Fellow - Fiction". Archived from the original on 2011-06-03. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
  10. ^ NEA Literature Fellowships > Forty Years of Supporting American Writers > Past Recipients Archived 2009-11-19 at WebCite
  11. ^ "Poet Al Young is dead at 81: "He was one of the most gracious writers I ever met."". The Book Haven. 18 April 2021. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  12. ^ "Al Young, Former California Poet Laureate, Dies at 81". KQED. 21 April 2021. Retrieved 21 April 2021.


External links

This page was last edited on 5 June 2021, at 03:28
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