"One of the gifts of the finest poets is to understand that one's personal voice is intertwined with the voices of other poets and other people, both dead and living, and yet to speak and sound like oneself, neither pretentious nor dumbed down. Major Jackson has that gift. Prophetic scat singer, apocalyptic raconteur, he makes poems that swerve impossibly and yet authoritatively from the ordinary to the miraculous and beyond but always keep their cool. Rich in reference and thick with all he has experienced on his own pulses, Major Jackson's poetry gathers, lifts, and loads, but never collapses. It takes on a massive load, but carries it forward."
—T. R. Hummer, author of The Muse in the Machine: Essays on Poetry and the Anatomy of the Body Politic
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 honors 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 monologue 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.
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