2013 Keynote

Al Young


Born May 31, 1939 at Ocean Springs, Mississippi on the Gulf Coast near Biloxi, Al Young grew up in the rural South of villages and small towns, and in urban, industrial Detroit. From 1957-1960 he attended the University of Michigan, where he co-edited Generation, the campus literary magazine. In 1961 he emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area. Settling at first in Berkeley, he held a variety of colorful jobs (folksinger, lab aide, disk jockey, medical photographer, clerk typist, employment counselor) before graduating with honors from U.C. Berkeley with a degree in Spanish.



Widely translated, Al Young’s 22 books include poetry (HeavenThe Sound of Dreams RememberedCoastal Nights and Inland AfternoonsSomething About the Blues); fiction (Who Is Angelina?Sitting PrettySeduction By Light); essays (Jazz Idiom: The Jazz Photography of Charles L. Robinson); anthologies (Yardbird Lives! (co-edited with Ishmael Reed), African American Literature: A Brief Introduction and Anthology, The Literature of California (with Jack Hicks, James D. Houston, and Maxine Hong Kingston), and musical memoirs (Bodies & Soul, Kinds of Blue, Mingus Mingus: Two Memoirs (with Janet Coleman), Drowning in the Sea of Love). Appointed in 2005 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Young served as California’s poet laureate through 2008. Other honors include NEA, Fulbright, and Guggenheim Fellowships, the PEN/Library of Congress Award for Short Fiction, the PEN/USA Award for Nonfiction, two Pushcart Prizes, two American Book Awards, the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence and, most recently, the 2011 Thomas Wolfe Award. The City of Berkeley has declared February 5, 2013 as Al Young Day.


A teaching trouper (Stanford, UC Santa Cruz, University of Michigan, The Colorado College, University of Washington, Rice, University of Arkansas, Davidson College), he currently conducts seminars in imaginative writing and creativity at California College of the Arts, San Francisco. He also serves the Woodrow Wilson Foundation as a scholar and artist at-large. Offline Love a new poem collection, awaits publication. In the 1970s and 80s, Young wrote screenplays for Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, and Richard Pryor in the 1970s and 80s. Now he performs and sings to live music. Detailed information about this versatile Berkeley-based author may be gathered at Al Young's website.