With rhyme and reason

California poet laureate Al Young

California poet laureate Al Young

Courtesy Of Al Young

We haven’t seen much of California poet laureate Al Young in these parts—he’s been busy all up and down the state—so don’t miss the chance to hear him read on January 27. Friday night, the Bay Area resident will be joining the Inkwell, a group of student poets and writers from Nevada Union High School, for a performance in the Nevada County Poetry Series.

Young is well-known not just for his poetry chops, but also as a fiction writer and screenwriter, and he’s one of the editors of the University of California Press’ The Literature of California anthologies. His style, heavily influenced by both the Black Arts Movement and jazz rhythms, leaves room for a sly sense of humor that often serves as a point of entry into criticizing the status quo. Young uses forms in an understated way and uses the flexibility of language to approach his subject matter from several directions. This often results in a redefinition of the subject, as in, for example, his sonnet “To Be the Perfect Fool”: “You bet against yourself: the perfect fool. / Divine intelligence, the muse, the gods— / whatever works, or doesn’t. What’s uncool?”

The event will begin at 7:30 p.m. with student work from the Inkwell and then a reading by Young, followed by a question-and-answer session and a book-signing. It’s in the Main Theater at the Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main Street in Grass Valley. Tickets are available in advance at Odyssey Books, The Book Seller and Cherry Records for $8 (general, seniors and students) or $2 (under 18); at the door, tickets will be $10 and $3 respectively. Proceeds benefit the Nevada County Poetry Series. For more information, call (530) 432-8196 or (530) 274-8384.