Professor of English, Guggenheim fellow
- By Megan Morley Thomas
“I’m always thinking about writing,” says Major Jackson, poet and professor of English. “I’m always making connections or making metaphors or seeing images in my head.”
It's those connections that won Jackson a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship, one of the most prestigious honors granted to midcareer academics and artists who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts. The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation receives between 3,500 and 4,000 applications each year and awards approximately 200 fellowships.
Jackson is the author of three collections of poetry: Holding Company, Hoops and Leaving Saturn, which was awarded the Cave Canem Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. He has published poems and essays in periodicals including AGNI, American Poetry Review, Callaloo, The New Yorker and Tin House. His work has been included in Best American Poetry (2004, 2011) and Best of the Best American Poetry. Poetry editor of the Harvard Review, Jackson, among other honors, has been a recipient of a Pushcart Prize and a Whiting Writers' Award.
“It is good to follow in the long tradition of poets I've admired who have also been awarded a Guggenheim,” he says. “It is fortifying and affirming.
Jackson has longed used art metaphors to talk about poetry, particularly for his students. Four years ago he started The Painted Word poetry series in which he brings established and emerging poets to read at the Fleming Museum once a month. While these are events open to everyone, Jackson is driven by the desire to give students the opportunity to come in close contact with working poets. “The students really do astound me with their poems every semester,” he says. “I could have built the whole series around their work.”
Jackson is inspired both to nurture his students as poets and also to be part of the broad conversation about poetry in and outside of the academy: “I want to help shape the dialogue particularly around poetry and race and our collective American literary inheritance.”