Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in
Pub Date: 02/08/2002
List Price: $19.95
From Sun Ra to the conundrum of adolescent sexuality, from barbershop culture to basketball and dance as rites of passage, Leaving Saturn is largely about returning: to tradition, to a psychological landscape both American and African American, and to a recognition of that suffering without which 'how else/do we know we are here?' An ambitious debut, for which Major Jackson has coined an idiom and music all his own.
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
With a changeable, questing voice, unexpected shifts in attention and tone, Major Jackson makes poems that rumble and rock. These poems find themselves at home in the mind of Sun Ra or on a Cape Cod beach, in a City Center Disco or the projects of North Philadelphia. Read 'Euphoria,' 'How To Listen,' 'Some Kind of Crazy' and get a jolt of this stuff. Become one of the 'community of believers.'
Jackson is in step, but he's also out there on the sidelines watching, with a keen eye for the tender moment, a rage at unfairness, a clever perception of vision where others might see only craziness. With such an auspicious beginning, what a future lies ahead of him.
—New Orleans Times-Picayune
Ultimately, Leaving Saturn is an homage to the inner-city ugly duckling, which, through Jackson's humanistic powers, is transcended into a swan.
—David Mills, Boston Globe
In this winning debut collection, Major Jackson begins as a poet of the Philadelphia projects, then projects himself into the wider arena of American Literature. Leaving Saturn marks the arrival of a poet who could be the Langston Hughes of North Philadelphia or the next Robert Hayden whose, 'Tattooed Man' yearns, 'Oh to break through,/ to free myself. . . .' Major Jackson has the talent to free himself to become whatever kind of poet he wants. . . . He will always have Philadelphia and his black roots as a source of 'tropes,' which he calls 'brutal, / relentless, miraculous. . .'—just like his poetry.
—George Held, Philadelphia Inquirer
Jackson inherits the gesture of poet as hero from James Weldon Johnson's naming of the African-American host—'black and unknown bards'—as well as Eliot's ghosts of white literary tradition.
—Afaa M. Weaver, Ploughshares
These assemblies of word, phrase, and line offer collages out of Romare Bearden, and their subtle meters have a musicality that conjures the back beats of an adolescence and adulthood in a Philadelphia stretching immeasurable latitudes away from the Main Line.
—Reamy Jansen, Christian Science Monitor
Whiting Award, Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation
National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Critics Circle