Poetry News

The Sense of Astonishment in Major Jackson's Roll Deep

By Harriet Staff


Major Jackson's newest collection, Roll Deep (W.W. Norton, 2015) is reviewed by J. Mae Barizo for The Rumpus. "With a modern yet lyric sensibility, the poems in Roll Deep are a testament both to memory and renewal; the human ability to persevere. Jackson explores his African-American roots while writing of the rootless," writes Barizo. More:

Jackson writes of his youth in urban America with a fine-toothed brilliance that sets on the page images that crackle with a cinematic gleam: “avenues in sheaths of grit/and utility wires like veins stitched to power supplies/buzzing…;” “graffiti lines, finally whitewashed, nearly expunged.” In the collection’s opening poem, “Reverse Voyage” Jackson writes about being black in America with a fierce elegance: “he slowly turns contemplating skin, the color /of almonds, pyramids, revolutions, and other such beauties.” He writes about race with an unabashed sense of both weight and vulnerability, an unapologetic fearlessness that is both poignant and searing.

The sense throughout Roll Deep is one of astonishment. Poems set in Spain and Greece reveal a tender and affecting portrait of human intimacy. Occasionally, abstractions such as romantic love, memory, journey are overworked, but Jackson counteracts them with an eye for scintillating detail: “dazzling nipples of Americans redden to rusted dials” a fisherman who “slaps his octopus again and again on a stone by the bay of Livadi at dawn.” Moving descriptions can be read when Jackson gives voice to the voiceless: rape victims in Kenya, refugees in Dadaab, “a collection of faces like smoking embers.”

Read on at The Rumpus.

Originally Published: September 24th, 2015