Most helpful critical review
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
playful, flashy, a bit monotonous
on December 28, 2005
The poetry of Kevin Young in "Jelly Roll: A Blues" is inextricably, and purposefully, linked with the Blues music tradition. Significantly, on the title page, under "Jelly Roll [A Blues]" is written "composed and arranged by Kevin Young," as if this were a book of musical compositions. From the old-school gramophone on the cover to the dozens of music themed poem titles, Young, as blatantly as he can, stamps his collection with the label of "Blues Poetry", encouraging readers to appreciate the musicality of his verse and placing his work in the tradition of black Blues Poets.
While many of Young's poems exhibit a flare for fresh language and a playful musicality, as a whole, "Jelly Roll [A Blues]" feels monotonous. Most of Jelly Roll's poems are about sex or love, and almost every one of them follows the same repetitive two-line stanza form. After the first twenty pages or so of this enormous, one hundred ninety page book, I found myself wondering, with each new poem, if I had already read one exactly like it a few pages ago.
There are moments throughout the book--words, images, sounds--that are brief bursts of beautiful or interesting. If the collection was cut to about one third or one fourth of its current size, then perhaps those moments would not be drowned out by the sense of monotony and repetition that the two-line form creates.
By calling so much attention to the genre of his poems, he boldly invites comparison between himself and early Blues Poets such as Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown. However, his work, at this point, does not live up to his hype.