cover image Hoops


Major Jackson, . . Norton, $23.95 (125pp) ISBN 978-0-393-05937-3

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. )