POET OF URBAN NEIGHBORHOODS AND
NYS Writers Institute, October 16, 2008
4:15 p.m. Seminar | Standish Room, Science Library
7:30 p.m. Reading | Standish Room, Science Library
Major Jackson, prize-winning African American poet, will discuss his work on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 7:30 p.m. [Note change to earlier start time to avoid conflict with televised Presidential debate] in the Standish Room, Science Library, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m. the author will present an informal seminar in the same location. The events are sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute and are free and open to the public.
The product of a tough Philadelphia neighborhood, Major Jackson transforms the everyday artifacts and pastimes of urban life— empty lots, low-rider jeans, gold chains, iPods, and basketball games— into rich and expressive symbols.
Critics often praise Jackson’s work in language that evokes the sport of basketball. Poet Jay Parini has said that “[Jackson’s] poems are systems of cleverly linked sounds: words colliding, bouncing off each other, in rhyme and slant rhyme, with lots of internal echoes. He has an ear for the speech of the streets, and this ear plays well in the lines, which have a wonderful bounce.”
Jackson’s most recent collection, “Hoops” (2006), was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature-Poetry. While the title poem explores basketball as a metaphor for life in general, more than half the collection is devoted to letter poems to Jackson’s literary hero, the late poet Geraldine Brooks. In an unusual move for a contemporary urban poet, in these epistolary poems Jackson has chosen to work within the constraints of rime royal, the form favored by medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer.
The “Library Journal” reviewer said, “In this newest volume of poems, Jackson takes aim with a series of free throws, exploring his North Philadelphia roots as he explodes over the urban landscapes of bars and oddities, basketball and poets, good friends and lost souls. A mixture of elevated diction and street language…. his lines seem to throb and pulse with the rhythms of the city and the game….” “Publishers Weekly” said “This book works to forge a large and spacious America, one capable of housing imagination.”
Jackson’s first collection, “Leaving Saturn” (2002), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His third volume of poetry “Holding Company” is forthcoming from W.W. Norton.
Jackson is a past winner of numerous prizes, including the Whiting Writers’ Award, the Witter Bynner Prize of the Library of Congress, a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, a Bread Loaf Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and the Cave Canem Poetry Prize.
A former Arts Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, Jackson is the Richard Dennis Green and Gold Professor of English at the University of Vermont and a regular instructor at the Bennington Writing Seminars. He also serves as the Poetry Editor of the “Harvard Review.”