This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features poet Kevin Young reading his poem "Aunties" at the Dodge Poetry Festival. “I feel like a poem is made up of poetic and unpoetic language, or unexpected language,” says Kevin Young; “Aunties” is a good example of allusive language, colloquial language, and poetic images all brought together to describe a wonderful lived experience of family.
For a biography of poet Kevin Young, please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.
“Aunties” is a mixture of memories: the childhood, child-like memories of the narrator’s aunts, his father’s sisters; and the narrator’s adult reflection on those memories.
We see his aunts as they seemed to him as a child—all-powerful, religious, comforting, good cooks, like second mothers (“God-mothers, God sends”). We also see the aunts as they appear to him now, when he is grown up—they seem old-fashioned, slowing down in their old age, telling family stories from a different place and time, survivors of the hard times the family went through in the South, keeping the “key to the scale that/weighed the cotton,/the cane we raised more than our/share of.”
Just as they looked after their brother when they were young, the aunts now look after the narrator, disciplining him—or threatening to—and passing on family recipes, stories, and traditions. All families offer rich resources for poetic inquiry. Individual traits or characteristics viewed over time convey deep, intimate knowledge of other people.
The narrator paints a picture of women not only holding on to their pocketbooks, but building resilience through the recollection of past times, joys, and struggles. This is how the narrator remembers them, fiercely protecting who and what they know and love.
Read a biography of the poet Kevin Young at the Poetry Foundation Web site.
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