With a nod to those sudden events that force us to recreate ourselves, entering a new phase in one’s life is always a process of becoming, often undetected and beneath the surface. Writing poems and essays allow for deliberate attention to personal growth, especially during midlife. This is one of the important topics in Razzle Dazzle: New & Selected Poems by Major Jackson; when we look back over our lives, what dominant themes reveal themselves as obsessions, roadblocks, and potential subjects for exploration in the next phase of our life? Is there a correlation between our writing practice and coming of age? How can we dramatize language to represent moments of becoming? We will read a selection of poems in Razzle Dazzle and generate writing prompts as approaches to writing about any rich time in our life that gets us closer to our truer self.
Major Jackson is the author of five books of poetry, including The Absurd Man (2020), Roll Deep (2015), Holding Company (2010), Hoops (2006) and Leaving Saturn (2002), which won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for a first book of poems. His edited volumes include: Best American Poetry 2019, Renga for Obama, and Library of America’s Countee Cullen: Collected Poems. A recipient of fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, Major Jackson has been awarded a Pushcart Prize, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. He has published poems and essays in American Poetry Review, The New Yorker, Orion Magazine, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Poetry London, and Zyzzva. Major Jackson lives in Nashville, Tennessee where he is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in the Humanities at Vanderbilt University. He serves as the Poetry Editor of The Harvard Review.