Wasn’t sure what to expect from Major Jackson. In all these years, our paths have never crossed, even though we are Cave Canem fellows. And after the article in P&W magazine, I was a bit intimidated. Holding Company, his latest collection, is a definite contrast from his previous collections Leaving Saturn and Hoops. I enjoyed hearing him read poems from his new book; his 10-line structured poems are some of his most personal poems to date.
For me, it was interesting to hear an established poet get a feel for new poems vs. older work. When Major read, it was as if he was looking for the natural rhythm that comes so easily to his earlier work. It will come. Yet, there was a certain vulnerability in how he read those poems, something beyond rhythm. I could hear it in his voice. I think we forget sometimes how difficult it is to put ourselves out there in our work, and then reveal our most personal feelings in a public setting. He certainly seemed more comfortable reading from his previous two books, which he has practically memorized. But from my perspective, I enjoyed hearing the formal poems as much as his earlier ones.
After the reading, a few of us went to a restaurant around the corner, which is where the photo was taken. It was nice having a few minutes to chat about mutual friends, MFA programs, and upcoming readings. Admittedly, I was charmed. And, my uncertainty about what to expect from Major easily melted away. He was just as nice and generous as he could be.