holding company with major jackson

I don’t know how many poets there are in Vermont. Of course the latest census didn’t shed any light on that number, though it was confirmed that there are around 625,000 folks living here: mostly white, with an older age skew than many states.

No real revelations, in other words.

When I talked to VT Arts Council Director Alex Aldrich a while back, he did verfy that Vermont has the highest number of artisans per capita of any state in the Union. If I had to guess, I’d say we’re equally endowed when it comes to gifted poets.

Yesterday I was pleased to invite one of them on the air with me for a conversation about National Poetry Month, and life in general as a poet in today’s world. Major Jackson teaches in the English Dept. UVM and he’s recently published his third volume of poetry – Holding Company. He’s also participated in the new anthology, “Crossing State Lines – An American Renga”, with 53 other poets from around the country. (NPR’s story about it is here.)

There were a lot of areas I wanted to talk about that we never got to before our time was up. Like, the process that’s underway right now at the Arts Council to select a new state poet laureate. And Vermont’s monthlong “Poetry Alive!” project underway now in Montpelier. And the poetic influences Major’s had in his long career.

We’ll save those thoughts for the next time.

We did talk about the consistent 10-line construction of every poem in “Holding Company”. They’re not renga, Major said, he had written the poems before he was asked to participate in the “Crossing State Lines” project where every contributing poet was asked to write a renga (a traditional Japanese 10-line form). A happy coincidence, then.

Major confirmed the critical concensus that his new book is the most personal of his collections; whereas the first two (“Leaving Saturn” and “Hoops”) were more driven by external inspiration. The emotional topography traversed in “Holding Company” is no less visceral and fully realized than the actual places and people we encounter in its predecessors.

Have a favorite poet or poem? Leave a comment here, and keep on supporting our local poets – this is VT so they’re probably also one of your neighbors or friends or coworkers.

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