Columbus Makes Art Presents Marcus Jackson and the Comfort of Poetry During These Times
April is National Poetry Month, and Ohioana Library Executive Director David Weaver talks to acclaimed poet Marcus Jackson. Born and raised in Toledo, Jackson earned degrees from the University of Toledo and New York University and was also a Cave Canem fellow. His poems have appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker and the Harvard Review. His second full-length collection, Pardon My Heart, won the Ohioana Poetry Book Award. Jackson will be a featured author on Aug. 29 at the 2020 Ohioana Book Festival.
David: You are a native of Toledo. When did you come to Columbus and what brought you here?
Marcus: I got to Columbus in 2014. My wife and I had been in New York City for about six years together before having a quick stint in Nashville, and then we hit the job market again and ended up settling nicely in C-bus.
David: Was poetry something that always fascinated you? Who were some of the poets who influenced you?
Marcus: I didn’t start reading poetry until college, when I was 19, but I deeply loved realist theater and cinema since a very young age (my parents were actors). I took my first poetry workshop at the University of Toledo as a sophomore and was instantly hooked. Since then, some of the most influential poets for me have been Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Federico Garcia Lorca, Philip Levine, Pablo Neruda, Rita Dove, Toi Derricotte, Larry Levis, Yusef Komunyakaa, Sharon Olds, and Cornelius Eady.
David: You teach creative writing at Ohio State, you’re married with a young daughter and you write. Is it difficult juggling so many things at once?
Marcus: Teaching and writing feel like playing to me—they thrill me, and they inform each other, and I feel extremely fortunate to be able to do both of them consistently. Parenthood has its shifting challenges and responsibilities, but the inspiration and truth that arises from witnessing a child’s developments and brilliant quirks are surely worth it.
David: The art scene in Columbus is bursting, especially for poets and writers. Which writers living and working here now do you especially admire and why?
Marcus: There are actually too many to name. Our city is really lucky to be home to so many talented, generous writers and artists who represent so many identities, artistic styles and ages.
David: I mentioned you have a growing family. Where do you like to take your wife, if you have a night free on the town? And what is your favorite place to take your daughter?
Marcus: When do go out, we tend to mix it up between a bunch of different restaurants (we don’t really have staples because there is such an array of good spots here), but we mostly cook at home and go to friends’ places.
David: Poetry and literature have often been a source of comfort to people in times of trouble. Are there any words – your own or others – that you feel would be apropos to the situation the world now faces?
Marcus: During troublesome times, I tend to most quickly think of our ancestors, and of the stunning obstacles they bested and of the miraculous advancements they died for us to inherit. And James Baldwin’s unequalled essays come to mind, especially his 1962 piece “Letter to My Nephew,” and especially this excerpt:
The 2020 Ohioana Book Festival, originally set for April 25, has been rescheduled for Saturday, August 29, at the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Main Library. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.ohioana.org.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting and advancing the arts and cultural fabric of Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. During the COVID-19 crisis, the Arts Council is maintaining a list of virtual arts experiences at ColumbusMakesArt.com/Virtual. The public is also invited to contribute to the Arts Council’s fund: Emergency Relief for Artists fund.