Bianca Stone & Ben Pease talk with the acclaimed poet, Major Jackson, about his new book The Absurd Man, the complexities of self, the importance of readings and constructing communities in poems.
Major Jackson is the author of five books of poetry, most recently, The Absurd Man (Norton: 2020). His edited volumes include: Best American Poetry 2019, Renga for Obama, and Library of America’s Countee Cullen: Collected Poems. A recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, he has been awarded 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. Major Jackson lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where he is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. He serves as the Poetry Editor of The Harvard Review.
In this knock-out collection, Major Jackson savors the complexity between perception and reality, the body and desire, accountability and judgment.
Inspired by Albert Camus’s seminal Myth of Sisyphus, Major Jackson’s fifth volume subtly configures the poet as “absurd hero” and plunges headfirst into a search for stable ground in an unstable world. We follow Jackson’s restless, vulnerable speaker as he ponders creation in the face of meaninglessness, chronicles an increasingly technological world and the difficulty of social and political unity, probes a failed marriage, and grieves his lost mother with a stunning, lucid lyricism.;
The arc of a man emerges; he bravely confronts his past, including his betrayals and his mistakes, and questions who he is as a father, as a husband, as a son, and as a poet. With intense musicality and verve, The Absurd Man also faces outward, finding refuge in intellectual and sensuous passions. At once melancholic and jubilant, Jackson considers the journey of humanity, with all its foibles, as a sacred pattern of discovery reconciled by art and the imagination.