Major Jackson plays with a full band. In words and rhythms, he tips his hat to Sun Ra, Duke Ellington or Kanye West; and he contrasts formal poetic traditions with urban slang enticing the reader to play back the poems like favorite songs, digging for inner rhyme. It's a gift that has earned him a devoted following and numerous accolades, including a Whiting Writer's Award, Cave Canem Poetry Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
In Roll Deep, his fourth book of poetry, Jackson breaks bold from the local, internal and uniquely American songs of his first three volumes to tap broader and deeper landscapes. As the title implies, these are lyrics of distant travel, immersion, close bonds, and trouble. There's a refugee camp in East Kenya, a tribute to a friend in Madrid, wars abroad and intimacy at home. Jackson's explorations are glorious, intensely personal, and gut-wrenching - sometimes in the same breath. Together, the poems form a fluid conversation, a beautiful bridge across borders, cultures, and human experience. Roll Deep is wonderful music from a great writer at the peak of his skill.
Major Jackson is a professor at the University of Vermont, teaches at the Bennington Writing Seminars, and serves as the poetry editor at the Harvard Review.
Signed by the author.