Leaving Saturn, chosen by Al Young as the winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, is an ambitious and honest collection. Major Jackson, through both formal and free verse poems, renders visible the spirit of resilience, courage, and creativity he witnessed among his family, neighbors, and friends while growing up in Philadelphia. His poems hauntingly reflect urban decay and violence, yet at the same time they rejoice in the sustaining power of music and the potency of community. Jackson also hors artists who have served as models of resistance and maintained their own faith in the belief of the imagination to alter lives. The title poem, a dramatic mologue in the voice of the American jazz composer and bandleader Sun Ra, details such a humane program and serves as an admirable tribute to the tradition of African American art. Throughout, Jackson unflinchingly portrays our most devastated landscapes, yet with a vividness and compassion that expose the depth of his imaginative powers.
Major Jackson's debut volume of poems, Leaving Saturn, selected by poet and novelist Al Young to receive the 2000 Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book by an African American poet, was nominated for a 2002 National Book Critics Circle Award and has received critical attention in the Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Parnassus, Philadelphia Inquirer, and on National Public Radio's All Things Considered. His poems have appeared in the American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Callaloo, Grand Street, Post Road, the New Yorker, among other literary journals. Formerly the Literary Arts Curator of the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia, he is the recipient of fellowships and awards from Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Pew Fellowship in the Arts, Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, as well as a commission from The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. In 2003, he received the prestigious Whiting Writers' Award. He has given readings around the country and participated in many festivals including Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, Poetry Society of America's Festival of New American Poets, and the New Yorker Festival in Bryant Park, New York City. He is a graduate of Temple University and University of Oregon's Creative Writing Program. Major Jackson is an associate professor of English at University of Vermont, a faculty member of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina, and a former Witter Bynner Fellow for the Library of Congress. He lives in South Burlington, Vermont. His second book of poems Hoops is forthcoming from W.W. Norton.