Hoops: Poems

Overview

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...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his second collection, National Book Critics Circle Award-finalist Jackson (Leaving Saturn, 2002) pays tribute to timeless and timely monuments of American culture and history. Set mostly in an urban landscape, the poems range over a variety of addresses: one envisions neighborhood basketball as a metaphor for life ("The body on defense,/ Playing up close, ghoulish,/ Lacking grace, afraid/ He'd go face-to-face"); others recall the trials and travails of adolescence or pay homage to writers like Shirley Jackson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks. In one poem, a grandfather struggles to maintain his integrity in a changing world: "he has watched the neighborhood,-/ postwar marble steps, a scrubbed frontier/ of Pontiacs lining the curb, fade to a hood"; in another, a fourth-grade teacher unable to remember her students' names like "Tarik, Shaniqua, [and] Amari... nicknamed the entire class/ after French painters." The long poem "Letter to Brooks," attempts to explain the contemporary scene to the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who died in 2000. This book works to forge a large and spacious America, one capable of housing imagination. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this newest volume of poems, Jackson (Leaving Saturn) takes aim with a series of free throws, exploring his North Philadelphia roots as he explodes over the urban landscapes of bars and oddities, basketball and poets, good friends and lost souls. A mixture of elevated diction and street language, Jackson's words inhabit "a paradise of kale/ and shakes root-dirt that snaps like a shadow lost in time." Often using rhymed accentuated verse, his lines seem to throb and pulse with the rhythms of the city and the game: "By a falling, Cyclone chain-/ link fence, a black rush streaks/ for netted hoops, & one alone/ from a distance breaks/ above the undulant pack ." Two-thirds of the book comprises a series of poems, "Letters to [Gwendolyn] Brooks," written in rime royal, in which the poet offers his ideas of writing, musings of politics, and other philosophies, directing his thoughts to her in pieces arranged by neighborhoods, subway stops along the way. He and a friend believe that Brooks would want to be remembered in verse: "Not out for the epic, I want a vault/ For my verbal wealth. I want a form/ For my lyrical stealth." Jackson reminds readers that even in the decay of the city, there is much to see, to remember, much to appreciate. Recommended for contemporary poetry and African American literature collections.-Karla Huston, Appleton Art Ctr., WI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393330373
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/24/2007
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 1,384,888
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Major Jackson is the author of Hoops, Holding Company, and Leaving Saturn, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is poetry editor at the Harvard Review and lives in South Burlington, Vermont.

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Table of Contents

Selling out 13
Hoops 19
Moose 29
Bum rush 32
Silk city 34
Metaphor 37
Maddeningly elusive, yet endlessly tempting 39
Urban renewal 43
The backyard garden wall is mossy green 43
What he gave of himself lacked the adornment of lilacs 45
Back then I had a ceaseless yearning : my breathing 47
A squeegee blade along your tongue's length 48
What of my fourth-grade teacher at Reynolds Elementary 49
How untouchable the girls arm-locked strutting 50
That moment in church when I stared at the reverend's black 51
Out of punctured wounds we spun up, less 53
Letter to Brooks 57
Fern rock 57
Olney 62
Logan 68
Wyoming 73
Hunting Park 80
Erie 85
Allegheny 91
North Philadelphia 96
Susquehanna-Dauphin 103
Cecil B. Moore 108
Girard 114
Fairmont 119
Spring garden 123
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