Michelle Sedaca | 4/15/2009, 7:30 a.m.
(Tod Martens photo)Michelle SedacaSo far, the sole constant in the acclaimed career...

Another, “Ode to Kitchen Grease,” evokes similar sensory memories and melancholy:

Still, some mornings
you drop by, uncool, right after
breakfast’s bacon’s been made — 
sniffing around the kitchen
and already asking
What’s for dinner —
and I sure wish you could stay.

The two poems and others like them are among Young’s many tributes to his family and their Southern cuisine. Both of his parents were originally from Louisiana, he said, and his family regularly visited relatives there when he was growing up.

“They were the first poems I could write after my father passed away,” Young said. “[It’s a way to] talk about something to the side of the event. I can write about grits and write about loss.

“Food is a way of talking about lots of issues — from race to memory and ritual,” he continued.

In Young’s family, food signifies more than just the palette; it evokes ritual, like the traditional meal that his family would have after a funeral.

“I like to convey that poetry is part of daily existence, from collard greens to going to the store,” he said. “Sometimes people think about poetry as airy and insubstantial, or only about huge things.”

Kevin Young reads selected works of poetry on Thursday, April 16, 2009, at 6:30 p.m., at the Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Avenue, Boston.

For more information, visit http://www.icaboston.org.