Poet Major Jackson to read, visit NU campus on April 17

The inaugural Writers Series of 2013 is closing the semester with one of the most influential contributors to American poetry that resides right here in Vermont. The poet, author of three collections of poetry, and University of Vermont professor, Major Jackson, will be visiting Norwich University on Wednesday, April 17, at 7 p.m.

Jackson’s published texts include, “Holding Company” and “Hoops” which were both finalists for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature-Poetry. He also wrote the collection “Leaving Saturn,” which won the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and was a finalist for a National Book Critics Award Circle. He has taught at UVM since 2002, is a core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars, and used to teach at the University of New Orleans.

The poet, professor, and published author, Major Jackson. (Erin Patrice O’Brien Photo)

The poet, professor, and published author, Major Jackson. (Erin Patrice O’Brien Photo)

“Those who come to listen to Major Jackson will be hearing one of the biggest names in American poetry,” said Norwich creative writing Prof. Sean Prentiss. “If there is a place to publish, he’s probably published there. If there is an award, he’s probably been a finalist. This is a must-see reading; Major Jackson will not disappoint.”

Although the Vermont native lives just up I-89 in South Burlington, this will be Jackson’s first visit to NU. During his visit, he will be reading from his text “Holding Company,” which he said needs attention and patience when reading it. He encourages his readers to tackle one poem a day. Most of the collection connects shorter poems with greater lyricism. “The language foregrounded everything else to create an experience with language as a material,” Jackson said.

Jackson looks forward to his trip to Norwich because he enjoys reading his own work.  “It’s a fun and wonderful experience to have an audience connect to my poems,” he said.

As a poet, Jackson views poetry to be akin to spiritual practice. Although Jackson was at one time an accountant, he has always been a reader of poetry. After getting his undergraduate degree at Temple University and his Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing at the University of Oregon, he found support through grants and fellowships to being his life as a poet.

When teaching, Jackson said he tries to make people passionate about poetry, just as he is passionate about teaching. “I want to share my passion with the next generation,” he said. In the classroom, he strives to engage students intellectually.

“It’s a glorious thing to be a mentor,” Jackson explained. When students walk out of his class, he hopes that if nothing else, they have developed a deeper appreciation of writing poetry. If he’s lucky, some of his students have even grown into readers of poetry.

“Writing makes me most reflective about life,” he said. Therefore, he carves out time each day to devote to writing. He enjoys staying connected locally and appreciates poems with a “local flavor.”

Some of his favorite poets, however, are from other countries that capture the culture and emotions of other areas. “You can learn so much about a country,” he said. “It’s about meeting family.”

“My voice is dictated by the subject matter. Each poem has its own,” he said. One of Jackson’s goals is to arrive to a point where even if his name wasn’t on the book, the reader could say, “oh, that’s a Major Jackson poem.”

To hear this extraordinary voice, poet, and professor, join the College of Liberal Arts as it welcomes Major Jackson in the Multipurpose Room of Kreitzberg Library for this free public event.

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