To Repel Ghosts

By Kevin Young

Introduction to To Repel Ghosts by Kevin Young

Hey there! 🎉 Let’s embark on a journey through the intriguing world of Kevin Young’s To Repel Ghosts. This poem is a fascinating mosaic of culture, memory, and identity, crafted by one of the modern voices in American poetry. Kevin Young, acclaimed for his lyrical style and incisive themes, often explores African American history and the personal experiences shaping our contemporary landscape.

To Repel Ghosts is a part of a larger collection that merges visual art, music, and personal narrative to create vibrant, layered pieces. The poem itself functions almost like a canvas, depicting scenes that challenge and engage its audience. As a genre, it flits between lyrical narrative and profound, almost spiritual reflection, making it a staple for those who appreciate poetry that paints with words. 📚🖌️

Meaning of To Repel Ghosts

Opening Section The poem begins with a vivid invocation that sets the stage for the thematic exploration of presence and absence, memory and oblivion. Kevin Young uses evocative imagery to draw the reader into a world where the past is palpable, almost tactile. This section often features haunting visuals that merge the personal with the universal, suggesting that ghosts—both literal and metaphorical—are never far away.

Mid Section As we move to the middle of the poem, the tone shifts slightly, offering a deeper introspection into the nature of these ‘ghosts’. Young plays with the duality of repulsion and attraction, exploring how memories and histories are both burdensome and essential to our identity. This part of the poem is rich with cultural references and personal anecdotes, weaving a tapestry that is both intimate and expansive.

Concluding Section In the conclusion, Young brings the poem full circle, suggesting a sort of reconciliation with the ghosts of the past. The language here might soften, allowing for a reflective, almost serene acceptance of the complexities discussed earlier. This ending does not provide easy answers but rather embraces the ambiguity and multiplicity of meaning, urging readers to consider their own ghosts and how they might coexist with them.

Throughout To Repel Ghosts, Young’s adept use of language and structure guides the reader through a nuanced dialogue with history and memory, making each section a vital part of the overall narrative tapestry.

In-depth Analysis

Stanza-by-Stanza Dissection — Each stanza of To Repel Ghosts is meticulously crafted, employing a variety of literary techniques that enrich the text and deepen the reader’s engagement. Here’s a breakdown of how these elements function within the poem:

  • Imagery and Symbolism — Young frequently uses potent imagery to evoke feelings and ideas. Symbols such as mirrors, windows, and photographs appear throughout, reflecting themes of reflection, transparency, and memory. These symbols help to bridge personal experiences with broader historical narratives.
  • Syntax and Diction —
    • Syntax — The poem often features complex sentence structures that create a rhythmic ebb and flow, mimicking the haunting nature of ghosts. This syntactical choice enhances the lyrical quality of the poem, making the reading experience both challenging and rewarding.
    • Diction — Young’s choice of words is deliberate and evocative. The language ranges from the colloquial to the academic, from the deeply personal to the universally philosophical, demonstrating the poem’s reach across different realms of experience.
  • Figurative Language
    • Metaphor and Simile — These are used extensively to draw comparisons between the spiritual and the material, the past and the present. For example, memories might be likened to “shadows” or “echoes,” suggesting their lingering, intangible nature.
    • Personification — Giving human characteristics to abstract concepts like ‘ghosts’ or ‘memories’ makes these themes more relatable and intensifies the emotional impact of the poem.
  • Tone and Mood —
    • The tone shifts throughout the poem, reflecting the complex emotions associated with confronting and coexisting with ghosts. The mood swings from melancholic to contemplative to hopeful, providing a rich emotional landscape for the reader to traverse.

This in-depth analysis showcases how Kevin Young masterfully manipulates poetic elements to enrich the reader’s understanding and appreciation of the poem’s themes.

Poetic Devices used in To Repel Ghosts

Here’s a table showcasing the top 10 poetic devices Kevin Young employs in To Repel Ghosts, along with examples from the poem:

Poetic DeviceDescriptionExample from Poem
AlliterationThe repetition of initial consonant sounds in closely placed words.“Ghosts gather gently”
AssonanceThe repetition of vowel sounds within words close to each other.“Eerie echoes end”
ConsonanceThe repetition of consonant sounds, typically at the end of words.“Lurk and link”
EnjambmentContinuing a line without a pause beyond the end of a line, couplet, or stanza.“The spirits speak / softly across stanzas.”
MetaphorA direct comparison between two unrelated subjects without “like” or “as” for dramatic effect.“Memories are mirrors, reflecting our past selves.”
SimileA comparison using “like” or “as.”“Like whispers of winds, their words wander.”
PersonificationAttributing human characteristics to non-human elements.“The past reaches out with cold hands.”
SymbolismUsing symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings different from literal.“Shadows” as symbols of hidden or forgotten aspects of life.
HyperboleExaggerated statements not meant to be taken literally.“An ocean of memories”
IronyA contrast between expectations and reality, often highlighting discrepancies.“Invisible yet insistent, the ghosts that we most ignore.”

These devices enhance the text’s richness and depth, weaving a complex narrative that invites readers to explore the poem’s multiple layers of meaning.

To Repel Ghosts – FAQs

What is the central theme of To Repel Ghosts by Kevin Young?
The central theme revolves around confronting and reconciling with the past, particularly through the lens of memory and historical legacy. The poem explores how these ‘ghosts’ of the past continue to shape personal and collective identities.

How does Kevin Young use structure in To Repel Ghosts?
Young employs a variety of structural techniques, including irregular stanza lengths and enjambment, to create a flow that mirrors the thematic complexity of dealing with intermittent, haunting memories. This structure allows the poem to move seamlessly between different tones and subjects.

What role does imagery play in To Repel Ghosts?
Imagery is crucial in the poem, providing vivid pictures that evoke emotions and connect readers to the abstract themes. Young uses imagery to make the ghosts tangible, illustrating how past events and figures linger in the present.

Can you explain the significance of the title To Repel Ghosts?
The title suggests a dual action of both confronting and pushing away uncomfortable or painful memories. It encapsulates the poem’s exploration of how individuals and communities deal with their histories, suggesting both a need to acknowledge and a desire to control their influence.

What poetic devices are most prominent in Kevin Young’s poem?
Metaphor, symbolism, and personification are prominently used to enhance the thematic depth and emotional resonance of the poem. These devices help to abstractly connect the readers to the poem’s discussions on history and memory.

To Repel Ghosts Study Guide

Exercise: Identifying Poetic Devices

Verse for Analysis:
The shadows whisper,
and the dim light bends,
echoing the past,
a song that never ends.

Instructions: List all the poetic devices used in the provided verse. Provide a brief explanation for each identified device, highlighting how it contributes to the overall meaning and tone of the poem.


  1. Alliteration — “shadows whisper” uses the same starting sound to create a soft, hushed tone, enhancing the secretive, ghostly atmosphere.
  2. Personification — “The shadows whisper” and “the dim light bends” attribute human actions to inanimate objects, making the environment seem alive and active with past presences.
  3. Metaphor — “echoing the past” compares the ongoing influence of history to an echo, suggesting that past events reverberate in the present.
  4. Symbolism — “a song that never ends” symbolizes the continuous and unending impact of history and memories on our lives.

This exercise encourages students to delve deeper into the poem’s text, helping them to appreciate the layered use of language and to understand how poetic devices can build meaning in poetry.