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A Careful Hunger: Poems

by Judy Young edited by John K. Young foreword by Mary Ann Taylor-Hall and Susan Starr Richards

Availablepaperback$19.95 978-0-8131-7784-7
72 pages  Pubdate: 10/08/2019  5.5 x 8.5  

Judy Young (1940–2015) was a gifted but private poet. Over the years, she established provisional collections of her best work but refrained from seeking publication due to her trepidation with sharing her deeply personal poems with an audience. She found her voice in a collective group of creatives that included Susan Starr Richards, Mary Ann Taylor-Hall, and the late Donna Boyd, Jane Gentry, Audrey Robinson, and Carolyn Hisel. This illustrious circle of friends met monthly for almost thirty years and gave her the courage to share her work—a lyrical medley of pain, beauty, strength, and redemption.

Revealed is the story of a woman’s inner life—an intimate tale of abuse and personal struggle— from a traumatic childhood through marriage, parenthood, and lifelong friendships. Based on the final manuscript that was drafted before the author’s death, this compilation traces the path of a woman finding her poetic voice in middle age, returning to an often-harrowing upbringing while closely observing the natural world—especially the populations of birds moving through the space between her back porch and the lake below—and meditating on the nature of creativity. With a submerged narrative behind the poems and several calls to nature through repeated motifs, the poet shares seminal emotions and experiences.

A Careful Hunger is the last creative testament of this extraordinary artist—her final act of fearlessness in a troubled yet joyful life. In the words of the poet: “I am alive and must say so / one way or another.”

Judy Young (1940–2015) was a graduate of Transylvania University and later earned an MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College.

John K. Young
is a professor in the English department at Marshall University, specializing in histories of textual production in the American and British literatures of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He is the author of Black Writers, White Publishers: Marketplace Politics in Twentieth-Century African American Literature, How to Revise a True War Story: Tim O’Brien’s Process of Textual Production, and the coeditor, with George Hutchinson, of Publishing Blackness: Textual Constructions of Race Since 1850.

Young’s stunning book is “careful” not in the usual sense of being cautious, but in its other, more essential meaning: full of care. Young’s art is shorn of artifice or decoration; through these uncompromising yet restrained poems, she expresses a yearning—for life, meaning love—that is pure, unflinching, and so honest that we as readers are brought to face ourselves: our own failings and desires. The voice here—“I am alive and must say so/one way or another”— is that of a soul that faces a terrible past and her own imminent death, yet sings: “I greet you, seeds in my hand,/waiting for rain.” -- Joan Aleshire, author of Days of our Lives

Most of the time, the pain in these poems is reduced to a keyhole. On one side is the eternal room of childhood anguish. On the other side is the sustaining world of trees and flowers and light. Art is the line connecting the two realms, saving one from the other. The hunger here, indeed, is careful; it’s also necessary, and shimmering. This is a wise and wondering book, and I’m glad the voice behind these careful poems is with us still. -- Maurice Manning, author of One Man's Dark