Major Jackson

Acclaimed Poet & Teacher

“Major Jackson makes poems that rumble and rock.” —Dorianne Laux


Jackson knows the truth of black magic. It is a magic as simple as the belief in humanity that subverts racism, or the esoteric and mystical magic of making jazz, the music of hope and love.” —Aafa Weaver

Major Jackson is the author of three collections of poetry: Holding Company (2010, Norton); Hoops (2006, Norton); and Leaving Saturn (2002, University of Georgia Press). Holding Company and Hoops were both selected as finalists for an NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry; and Leaving Saturn, awarded the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for a first book of poems, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. He has published poems and essays in AGNI, American Poetry Review, Callaloo, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Poetry, Tin House, and in Best American Poetry (2004, 2011). He is a recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Whiting Writers' Award, and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress.

Poets & Writers Profile of Major Jackson

Jackson has served as a Distinguished Visiting Writer at Antioch University, a creative arts fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence at Baruch College. He has taught at Columbia University, New York University, Xavier University of Louisiana, and the University of Massachusetts - Lowell as the Jack Kerouac Writer-in-Residence. He is a core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars. Major Jackson lives in South Burlington, Vermont, where he is the Richard Dennis Green and Gold Professor at the University of Vermont. He serves as the Poetry Editor of The Harvard Review.

Identity Theory Interview

About HOLDING COMPANY (Poetry, 2010)

Jackson explores new territory—the realm of the ecstatic. —Poets & Writers

In Holding Company, Major Jackson explores art, literature, and music as a kingdom, or an empire, a dark, seductive force in our lives. In an effort to understand desire, beauty, and love as transient anodynes to metaphysical loneliness, he invokes Constantine Cavafy, Pablo Neruda, Anna Akhmatova, and Dante Rossetti.

From “Jewel-Tongued”:

The stillness of a lover’s mouth
assaulted me. I never wearied of anecdotes
on the Commons, gesturing until I scattered
myself into a luminance, shining over a city
of women. Was I less human or more? I hear still
my breathing echoing off their pillows. So many
eyes like crushed flowers. Our fingers splayed
over a bed’s edge. We were blown away.

About HOOPS (Poetry, 2006)
Review from The New Yorker:
The slangy title of Jackson’s second collection is a layered metaphor, implying, among other things, basketball, jewelry, and life’s hurdles. Jackson seems to define himself by his eclecticism; he reveres basketball players as much as poets. Recalling his early life in a rough Philadelphia neighborhood, he draws nourishment from a sense of his acuity: “My breathing / was older than me.” His poems are witty, musical, and intelligent; he is equally happy discussing the war on terror—“An empire croons, toughed-up in a trance”—or describing early crushes: “The swagger / behind their blue-tinted sunglasses and low-rider / jeans hurt boys like me.” Other subjects include Columbine, Tupac Shakur, iPods, and, above all, the condition and future of the black poet. In a final flourish of contrast, Jackson writes an epistolary poem to Gwendolyn Brooks, in a recognizable, albeit flexible, rhyme royal.


Major Jackson website