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Hoops: Poems by Major Jackson

Hoops: Poems

by Major Jackson

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In 2004, I attended the Furious Flower Poetry Conference at James Madison University. The conference was held as a celebration of African-American Poetry and today's most notable poets were in attendance. Poets Yusef Komunayakaa, Rita Dove, Lucille Clifton, Kevin Young, E. Ethelbert Miller, Nikki Giovanni, and Amiri Baraka (amongst others) highlighted this celebration of not just African-American Poetry, but of the poetical influence of Gwendolyn Brooks. Major Jackson also attended and read at this conference.

A majority of Major Jackson's poetry collection, "Hoops," is an homage, no, check that, a poetic letter to the late Gwendolyn Brooks. While this has the recipe for success, the constant allusion to specific, personal experiences and acquaintances without any universality to it, will ultimately alienate most readers. Two sections of his letter to Brooks seem to allude, if not directly approach, the experience at the Furious Flower Conference. But, navigating those waters, at times, proves to be quite difficult.

This is not to say that this collection is bad as there are gems that present themselves throughout the work. Lines such as, "...if the slum's our dungeon,/school's our Bethlehem." and the final section of the Brooks letter, "Spring Garden" reflect the powerful language that does exist in Jackson's work. ( )
1 vote CardiffGiant | Aug 12, 2008 |
There were some nice moments in this collection, and perhaps a few poems that I'll go back to, but I was somewhat disappointed on the whole. There were quite a few poems that felt too personal here, not in the way of that they shouldn't have been published, but simply that I'm not sure a reader unfamiliar with Jackson himself or the area he's coming from could really get a feel for them. It seemed like there was a distance between myself and the material, and as a result, much of it fell somewhat flat. Jackson didn't seem to be trying to translate the material for a strange reader, and I never felt like I was being brought into the scene, or even considered. I've read poems by Jackson before which I've enjoyed, so I'm hoping I just picked up the wrong collection this time, and will try again in the future. Still, this wasn't one I'd recommend unless you've got a particular reason to search him out. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Feb 18, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393330370, Paperback)

Lush reflections on ordinary lives, displaying “formal talents and [Jackson’s] capacity for expanding the lyric potential of narrative” (Rain Taxi).

In Hoops, Major Jackson continues to mine the solemn marvels of ordinary lives: a grandfather gardens in a tenement backyard; a teacher unconsciously renames her black students after French painters. The substance of Jackson's art is the representation of American citizens whose heroic endurance makes them remarkable and transcendent.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:32 -0400)

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W.W. Norton

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