'Some quality of song': Al Young

PennSound podcast #70

Photo of Al Young by Al Filreis.


Al Young, Tyrone Williams, and William J. Harris joined Al Filreis in the Wexler Studio to discuss Young and his work. The conversation covered the relationship between Young’s poetry and the Black Arts Movement, the role of music and jazz in his writing, and other figures with whom he was acquainted, such as poets Ishmael Reed and Bob Kaufman. Young spoke of his time at Stanford, where he met Harris; of having resided in various parts of the country; and of the role of writing about lived experiences beyond writing about writing. Young also gave readings of some of his poems: “A Dance for Militant Dilettantes,” “Yes, the Secret Mind Whispers” (which was written in honor of Kaufman), and “January.”

Al Young is a celebrated poet, novelist, screenwriter, and former professor at various universities. His poetry collections include Dancing: Poems (Corinth Books, 1969), The Song Turning Back into Itself (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971), The Blues Don’t Change: New and Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 1982), Heaven: Collected Poems 1956–1990 (Creative Arts Book Company 1992), The Sound of Dreams Remembered: Poems 1990–2000 (Creative Arts Book Company, 2001), and more. Young is the also the author of multiple musical memoirs and novels.

Tyrone Williams is a poet and professor at Xavier University. He is the author of several chapbooks and poetry collections: c.c. (Krupskaya Books, 2002), On Spec (Omnidawn Publishing, 2008), The Hero Project of the Century (The Backwaters Press, 2009), Pink Tie (Hooke Press, 2011), Adventures of Pi: Poems 1980–1990 (Dos Madres Press, 2011), and Howell (Atelos, 2011).

William J. Harris is a writer and the former Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Kansas, currently living and writing in Brooklyn. He is the coauthor of Crooners (Centro Lumina, Tempo Ritrovato, 2011) and author of Hey Fella, Would You Mind Holding this Piano a Moment (Ithaca House, 1974), In My Own Dark Way (Ithaca House, 1977), and The Poetry and Poetics of Amiri Baraka: The Jazz Aesthetic (University of Missouri Press, 1986). — Kelly Liu