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Murmuration of Starlings

Murmuration of Starlings

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Jake Adam York


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
96 pages, 6 x 9

Crab Orchard Series in Poetry


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About the Book

A Murmuration of Starlings elegizes the martyrs of the civil rights movement, whose names are inscribed on the stone table of the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. Individually, Jake Adam York’s poems are elegies for individuals; collectively, they consider the violence of a racist culture and the determination to resist that racism.

York follows Sun Ra, a Birmingham jazz musician whose response to racial violence was to secede from planet Earth, considers the testimony in the trial of J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant for the murder of Emmet Till in 1955, and recreates events of Selma, Alabama, in 1965. Throughout the collection, an invasion of starlings imagesthe racial hatred and bloodshed. While the 1950s spawned violence, the movement in the early 1960s transformed the language of brutality and turned the violence against the violent, says York. So, the starlings, first produced by violence, become instruments of resistance.

York’s collection responds to and participates inrecent movements to find and punish the perpetrators of the crimes that defined the civil rights movement. A Murmuration of Starlings participates in the search for justice, satisfaction, and closure.


Jake Adam York is an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado–Denver. His first book of poems, Murder Ballads, was published in 2005. His poems have appeared in such journals as Blackbird, Diagram, Greensboro Review, Gulf Coast, H_NGM_N, New Orleans Review, Shenandoah, and Southern Review. York was raised in northeast Alabama.


A Murmuration of Starlings, is a fierce, beautiful, necessary book. Fearless in their reckoning, these poems resurrect contested histories and show us that the past—with its troubled beauty, its erasures, and its violence—weighs upon us all . . . a murmuration so that we don't forget, so that no one disappears into history.”—Natasha Trethewey, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of Native Guard

“Through a ceremony of language and song, A Murmuration of Starlings consecrates and memorializes the souls, blood, and bones of those black men and women slaughtered on the altar of hate and violence during the Civil Rights era. With a lucid, shrewd intelligence and a commanding vision of healing and atonement, Jake Adam York makes an offering of images and music that seems the foundation of a new understanding and remembrance. A Murmuration of Starlings is a joyful experience and fulfillment of American verse from one of its most important young poets.”—Major Jackson, author of Leaving Saturn and Hoops

“Each poem reaches out—as only poems can reach—and touches history on its shoulder. We may have thought we knew these stories. But, having been tapped by a homegrown kind of prodigal music—something double-edged, call it jazz—what turns to face us in these poems is turning toward us for the first time.”—Ed Pavlic, author of Labors Lost Left Unfinished and Paraph of Bone and Other Kinds of Blue