Saturday, October 19, 2013


Several years ago, on a gloomy winter evening, I went to the local public library rather than staring into dark windows or watching reality TV.   I leafed through the poetry section, not expecting much, when I ran across a Graywolf Press book with a snazzy cover. I opened it and found a poem about a Topeka bar, Jeremiah Bullfrog. I thought it must be a coincidence, one of many bars named J.B., but as I read more, Topeka place names jumped out at me, juxtaposed with super heroes. Wow. Bear in mind that downriver from Topeka, in Lawrence where I live, we have awe and fear for our neighboring metropolis of high crime rates, conservative legislators, and an inexplicably talented poet pool (Kevin Young, Ben Lerner, Cyrus Console, Ronald Johnson, Ed Skoog, Eric McHenry, Amy Fleury, more). I had missed Gary Jackson as he went through the Washburn University’s undergraduate program and then the MFA program at the University of New Mexico. Currently, he is assistant professor at College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C. His work is accessible, funny, and strong. Here are some recent links:
Jennifer Chang features Gary Jackson in her Poetry Society “New American Poets” column this week. She begins with a discussion of his first book, which won the Cave Canem prize:
“Reading Gary Jackson's Missing You, Metropolis returned me to my one experience with comic books: reading Archie in the sad cacophony of a music school waiting room, I'd pass the time rolling my eyes at Betty and Veronica, revering the easy indifference of Jughead, and wishing I were older so that I'd never have to take another piano lesson again. But, for Jackson, comic books are not merely a lifeline for weird kids; otherwise this would not be as good a book as it is. Comic books—their constellated mythologies and fantastical alter egos—evince human complexities, the difficult ugly truths about ourselves that we'd rather ignore, and they school the book's speaker in the bravery of connecting to others and, thus, to ‘the whole goddamn world.’" For more, follow this link:
A play adapted from the book was produced in Topeka, Feb. 2013:
NPR featured a poem from Metropolis:
Nightcrawler Buys a Woman a Drink By Gary Jackson

You're staring, jaw-dropped at my tail. And yes,
it's a good twenty inches long and moves

like a serpent in heat. Touch it. I'm no devil, honey,
I don't got no souls, just the smoothest, bluest fur
you've ever seen. Don't mind my buddy here, he looks angry
all the time, and he's got eyes for the bottle of Jameson

and the short-haired blonde playing pool near the gorillas.
What do we do? Over a few drinks I could tell you about the time

we traveled to the blue side of the moon or when we fought
the Juggernaut right here in this bar. Yeah, the fangs are real.

Rub your finger over them, touch the deviled tongue.
Caress my fur with your skin, let me keep your body warm

in the dark. It's your night, honey. Show me a woman not afraid
of a mutant man. Let me mix into your bloodline.
Gary Jackson links:
Link to book Missing You Metropolis on Graywolf website :
Washburn University map of Kansas literature: 
YouTube poetry reading, 2008, U of New Mexico, 10 min.
2012 Interview in Political Fiber