What others have to say about Homespun and Angel Feathers:
(click here) Review by Jenny Webb for the Association for Mormon Letters blog, "Dawning of a Brighter Day"
Darlene Young “has lived in [her] poetry at the same time that [she] has lived outside of it, and…[this] is why we know that [her] poems mean exactly what [she] means, and might say in some other language if [she] chose. But [she] has chosen this language as the most personal [she] could find, toward the end that what it conveys should be personal for us too. We need not agree with everything [she] says in order to think [her] wise…. Some of [her poems] are very narrow, it would seem, and…in the language of criticism they might even be dismissed as little ‘conceits’; but the narrowest of them is likely to lead further in than we suspected, toward the central room where [her] understanding is at home.
“The sign that [she] is at home is that [her] language is plain; it is the human vernacular, as simple on the surface as monosyllables can make it. [She] seems to be saying less than [she] does; it is only when we read close and listen well, and think between the sentences, that we become aware of what [her] poems are about. What they are about is the important thing—more important, we are tempted to think, than the words themselves, though it was the words that brought the subject on. [And this] subject is the world…which [we] will never quite understand, [yet] it is as familiar as an old boot or an old back door, lovable for what it is in spite of the fact that it does not speak up and identify itself in the idiom of abstraction. [Young] is a philosopher, but [her] ideas are behind [her] poems, not in them—buried well, for us to guess at if we please.”
The above is a 1951 description of Robert Frost’s role in the world’s literature by the poet and scholar Mark Van Doren, but it captures perfectly the parallel role Darlene Young’s poems are shaping for themselves within the landscape of Mormon literature. Just as Robert Frost (alongside yet in contrast to the Modern poets) wrote of everyday things in everyday language, heightening both in the process, Young, during a golden era of Mormon poets publishing provocative work, writes of everyday life as a “Utah Mormon” with language that elevates the mundane to the heroic and the beautiful.
Homespun and Angel Feathers quietly sits among its peers with less flash or surface difficulty, yet it more directly, consistently, and deeply engages with themes and paradoxes of Latter-day Saint life—all while maintaining a surface friendly to casual readers who simply want a spot of pleasure from beautiful language, easily understood. That she manages both these tasks with consistent wit and true feeling places this collection among not just the best of 2019, but among the greatest works in our literature generally. We only hope that her first collection, like Frost’s before her, augurs decades of important, accessible, challenging work to follow.
—Association for Mormon Letters, Award for Poetry, 2019
Darlene Young’s writing collapses time, brings together heaven and earth, shows us the glory-wrapped-in-meat we all are.
These aren’t poems. They are magic.
—James Goldberg, author of The Five Books of Jesus
Darlene Young shows us what it means to “carry a landscape in [our] blood.” Her wise (and often snarky) poems are introspective gems that elevate the ordinary and revel in the paradoxes of everyday Mormon life. More importantly, they remind us what it means belong and seek belonging in a community of Saints. These are poems that speak to the Mormon heart as well as the Mormon heartland. Homespun and Angel Feathers is a gift for anyone who has ever gazed “across a weed-scrabbled/mountain valley” and yearned for home.
—Scott Hales, author of The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl
Darlene Young's poetry consistently delights and surprises. She can evoke tears and chuckles—sometimes within one poem.
This book is a gift and an invitation to receive more gifts. Young unfolds new perspectives and insights on Biblical texts, the miraculous messiness of motherhood, the challenges and blessings of being a woman of faith in a demanding, noisy world, and the triumphant dimensions of love.
Darlene Young's poetry should be read re-read, savored, shared.
—Margaret Blair Young, past president of the Association for Mormon Letters
and author of I am Jane
Darlene Young’s poems celebrate the beauty, humor, and pathos of everyday life in wise and surprising ways. She is unafraid to explore the depth and breadth of familiar subjects, locating the divine in the mundane, exploding the myth that in order to live deliberately, the poet must go out into the woods, alone. Surrounded by a houseful of teenagers, grappling with the demands of middle age, confronting health problems, balancing church and professional responsibilities, simply getting the dishes done—it is in the midst of all of this lived experience that Young stops and takes note. Suffused with crackling language and precise imagery, her poetry helps us stop and take note as well.
—Angela Hallstrom, author of Bound on Earth and editor of Dispensation: Latter-day Fiction
“Home-made, home-made! But aren’t we all?” These words, from Elizabeth Bishop’s “Crusoe in England,” seem a fitting intro to this charming debut collection. The world Darlene Young observes is cobbled-together, strange, a bit wobbly---fallen but irresistibly so. Her chief tools are romanticism and irony, which she juggles with skill. The result? Poems that are both sassy and sacred, holy and hungry---poems, in short, that praise. “I’ll be your holy kazoo,” she says to God on page one. And we, lucky readers, eavesdrop for the rest of the collection.
—Lance Larsen, Utah poet laureate, 2012-17
Although Homespun and Angel Feathers is Darlene Young’s first book, it seems to be the work of a long-published, successful poet. Young is a wise and seasoned woman who knows herself and what matters to her, and who has studied seriously to perfect her craft. In this collection, she succeeds at some of poetry’s most difficult tasks: it is much more challenging to affirm than to negate; it is many degrees harder to express faith than to express doubt; much greater skill is required to write successfully of daily family life rather than of the bizarre or extraordinary. Darlene Young does all these things exquisitely. Her tone is frank, down-to-earth, quirky, as if she is indeed the Lord’s “holy kazoo.” Because she is honest about the struggles and disagreements of family life, she is entirely believable when she also writes of her love for her husband and sons. Her poems embody the emotions she hopes to share with the reader; she describes one son’s “still narrow shoulders, crooked / tie,” another’s “granola and earphones,” marriage as “the nubby recliner in the corner,” and daily life as “torque and tonnage.” Because Young has spent time with her language, has carefully explored its connotations as well as its aural and imaginative possibilities, her greatest achievement is to write originally about her faith. She is decidedly a Latter-day Saint writing to other Latter-day Saints, with poems about the prophet Joseph, Adam and Eve, the temple, and church life. Homespun and Angel Feathers is a bright new star in the ever-expanding galaxy of Mormon poetry.
—Susan Howe, author of Salt, associate editor of BYU Studies, and winner of the
Association for Mormon Letters Lifetime Achievement Award
Reading Darlene’s poems is an experience of seeing the most unlikely things through a crystal that makes them multi-faceted and shining—that dying tree in the backyard--mother’s dustcloth on the bannisters on Thursdays--digestion in the Garden. I read Homespun and Angel Feathers in gratitude and admiration and occasional envy. We are richer for these skillfully offered words.
—Carol Lynn Pearson, poet, screenwriter and playwright