Award-winning poet Major Jackson to read his work at Emory University

Major Jackson, an award-winning poet and host of the podcast “The Slowdown,” will give a public reading during a visit to Emory University on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2023, at 3 p.m. in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts on the Emory campus. Jackson’s books will be for sale at the reading, with a signing immediately following the event. Vertical photo of African American poet Major Jackson wearing dark-rimmed eyeglasses

The reading, which will be held during African American History Month, is open to the public at no charge, but seating is limited and attendees are urged to register at this link. (Registration opens Jan. 24.) The event is part of the annual Raymond Danowski Poetry Library Reading Series founded by Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.

“Major Jackson is one of those rare poets who can strike every note with skill and grace, creating work that is wise, funny, raucous, elegant, moving, and – above all – surprising,” Heather Christle, assistant professor of English & creative writing, said. “We’re so lucky to have this brilliant artist among us for a few days. His visit will be an incredible opportunity for the Emory community to witness and learn from a poet at the height of his powers.”

Rose Library holds a collection of Jackson’s papers, which can be requested for research use.

“We are thrilled to welcome Major Jackson to Emory University,” Jennifer Gunter King, director of the Rose Library, said. “His papers significantly enrich our collections, and his upcoming visit offers a fantastic opportunity for our community to personally engage with his warmth, profound insights, and intelligence, as well as with each other. As a member of the Dark Room Collective, Jackson joins other esteemed writers like Kevin Young, Natasha Tretheway, and Tracy K. Smith, whose papers are housed here at Emory University.”

Jackson is the author of six books of poetry, including “Razzle Dazzle: New & Selected Poems” (2023), “The Absurd Man” (2020), “Roll Deep” (2015), “Holding Company” (2010), “Hoops” (2006) and “Leaving Saturn” (2002), which won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for a first book of poems.

His edited volumes include: “Best American Poetry 2019,” “Renga for Obama,” and Library of America’s “Countee Cullen: Collected Poems.” He is also the author of “A Beat Beyond: The Selected Prose of Major Jackson” edited by Amor Kohli.

“Epistolary poetry, lists, rhymes so deft you scarcely notice them, prose poems, good old-fashioned free verse: Major Jackson stocks the jukebox that is ‘Razzle Dazzle: New and Selected Poems, 2002-2022’ . . . with every kind of poem one could possibly ask for,” David Kirby wrote in a review for The New York Times. “What they share is meatiness. Together they make up a nutritionally dense smorgasbord of people (the poet’s mother, neighborhood characters, fellow poets like Gwendolyn Brooks and Derek Walcott), places (Spain, Brazil, Kenya), and artists of every kind, often paired in ways that don’t make sense until they do (Dostoyevsky and Amiri Baraka in one poem, Lacan and Holbein the Younger in another).”

Originally from Philadelphia, Jackson’s upbringing in that city touches many of his poems. He has published poems and essays in American Poetry Review, The New Yorker, Orion Magazine, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Poetry London, and World Literature Today.

A recipient of fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, John S. Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, Jackson has been awarded a Pushcart Prize and a Whiting Writers’ Award, and he has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress.

Jackson majored in accounting at Temple University and earned an MFA in creative writing at the University of Oregon. He now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where he is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in the Humanities at Vanderbilt University. Jackson hosts the Poetry Foundation’s podcast The Slowdown, and he serves as the poetry editor of the Harvard Review. He is also an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Jackson’s public reading at Emory is sponsored by the Hightower Fund, Emory Libraries and the Rose Library, Emory’s Department of English and the Creative Writing Program, Emory Arts, the Decatur Book Festival, the Michael C. Carlos Museum, and the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts.

The Schwartz Center is located on the Emory University campus at 1700 N. Decatur Rd., Atlanta, GA 30322. Free parking is available for the Sunday reading in the Fishburne deck or Lowergate South deck.

Jackson is also the guest poet at the Rose Library’s annual 12th Night Revel fundraiser held the evening before, on Saturday, Feb. 17, at 6 p.m. The gala, which will take place this year at Greystone at Piedmont Park, offers an intimate experience, with poetry readings by attendees and personal interaction with the guest poet. Gala tickets can be purchased at this link. The generosity of donors enables the Rose Library to offer readings that are open to the public at no charge.

—by Maureen McGavin, senior writer, Emory Libraries communications


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