Born and raised in his native Philadelphia, Major Jackson uses the steady, soulful beats of All-American, wholesome jazz music to allow for infinite poetic inspiration in his verses. When he reads his work, he uses a tone of distant insight and close, almost intimate warmth to entice, captivate and entrance the reader into his spell that can last for minutes at a time.
Jackson also uses his musical tastes from when he was a teen, to his later, more adult years in a perfect combination of street like hip hop flow and the heartfelt sadness of jazz to explore the human experience. When discussing what specific public spaces, artists or memories from his home city inspire his work, he recalls the years of his life wandering throughout the streets of his Philadelphia.
In those streets, he was able to explore the most internal, poetic aspect of himself, which allowed him to call on the love of his city.
As a professor of the university of Vermont, Major Jackson assures everyone that Philadelphia will always be the creative foundation which initiated his poetic artistry, even in this point in his career. Her firmly believes that poetry, should denote and possess a musical, almost rhythmic quality in which the language, musical inspiration and performance become interconnected as a collective movement for every party involved.
Living by the wise words, once stated by Sharon Olds, a Pulitzer prize winner, Major Jackson makes it his primary mission in his creative field to always “write the poem you would never show anyone.” Drawing on a wide range of deep, often times conflicting personal experience, this poet firmly believes that the power of an insightful poem can therefore create a type of “rife raft” for individuals across cultures, backgrounds or experiences to find solace in a common struggle.
As for inspiring, new wide eyed poets on the scene, Major Jackson has a few words to guide these writers through their journey. Jackson advises these poets to a encompass a vast array of styles, beliefs and convictions, vastly different from what you may believe. This, in turn, will not only expand your worldview, but also allow for a healthy, internal debate within your own mind, producing some of your most profound work.
Interestingly enough, Major Jackson also makes a point to to look within yourself in order to not only imitate your influence, but instead write in a way that allows for a collective, almost symbiotic relationship. “Write organically, through your influences,” he states. “Then there will be the writing organically from the evolved craft of poetry’s essence.”
A firm believer in the power, use and widespread use of language, it is no surprise that Major Jackson has been incredibly successful, holding positions such as the current poetry editor of the Harvard review. His most recent work titled “Roll Deep & Poems,” which underlines issues such as human intimacy in platonic and romantic relationships, along with the multitude of implications and convictions within the sphere of online dating.
An interesting vocal form that guides Jackson throughout the creative process is to read his poetic words aloud as he writes them on paper. The poet states that by reading the language out loud, this actually allows him to find new, more innovative ways to create music through new tones in his words, experimenting with syllabic intonation and writing these somewhat pre-form poems.