March's Poetry at McLeod features CofC professor Gary Jackson

"We wear masks every time we write a poem"


Gary Jackson - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Gary Jackson
On Sun. March 18, Poetry at McLeod is hosting a reading and reception with award-winning local poet Gary Jackson, an event that was rescheduled after Hurricane Irma interrupted the original date last fall.

Poetry at McLeod is an innovative series — the first and only in the country to bring African-American poets to plantation sites to “illuminate the experience and legacy of American slavery.” The series focuses on poets that have been associated with Cave Canem: A Home for Black Poetry, a foundation formed in 1996 to fight under-representation of African-American poets in the literary field.

Through several programs, McLeod Plantation attempts to change the romanticized view of plantation life. Poetry at McLeod grapples with the complex history and modern memory of slavery in the American South. History and memory are two concepts Jackson also addressed in a recent interview with poet Emilia Phillips for 32poems.

“I’m hesitant to say reading poetry reprograms how we think of memory, but certainly reading any text, including poetry, that deals with history — whether it’s personal/familial/cultural/global/local history” said Jackson, “should make us consider how memory changes things: what’s preserved, what’s cut away...”

Jackson, who received an MFA from the University of New Mexico, is the author of Missing You, Metropolis, selected for the 2009 Cave Canem Poetry Prize by Yusef Komunyakaa. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2010, received a Cave Canem and Bread Loaf Fellowship, and was named a 2013 New American Poet by The Poetry Society of America. His work has appeared in Callaloo, Tin House, 32poems, Crab Orchard Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, and more. In 2013, he joined College of Charleston’s Department of English as an Assistant Professor of Poetry, and he is an associate poetry editor of Crazyhorse.

On Sat. March 17, Jackson is leading a free poetry workshop at James Island Town Hall from 2 to 4 p.m. The workshop, entitled “Persona and the Poet’s Voice,” is open to everyone, from new writers to seasoned poets.

“We wear masks every time we write a poem,” says Jackson, “be it a superhero, a historical figure, or simply ourselves. Let’s read a handful of published poems, play with words, and try to access the many voices we all possess.”

Sunday’s reading and reception is from 2 to 4 p.m. and is free to the first 50 people who come for the poetry. Gold Pass members can get free admission for four, and regular admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $6 for children under 13.

Poetry at McLeod is a collaborative project with James Island Arts, McLeod Plantation, Charleston County Parks & Recreation Commission, the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs, the SC Humanities Council, and South Arts.

Add a comment