cover image Holding Company

Holding Company

Major Jackson, Norton, $24.95 (96p) ISBN 978-0-393-07080-4

In his third collection, which is also his darkest, Jackson (Hoops) delves into wrenching, personal subject matter in rigid 10-line poems, a formal choice that seems to inspire an emotional nakedness he hasn't previously achieved. He begins on a visionary note—"For I, too, desired the Lion's mouth split/ & the world that is not ours, and the wounded children/ set free"—and then, in the same poem, name-checks Duke Ellington: these poems range widely across various registers and subjects, from the timeless and mythic to pop culture. But at the core of all of them is an awareness of the dark beneath everyday goings-on: "The neighbors/ know your comings and goings, but the syntax/ of your smiles is revealed only to little children." Also at the heart of these poems is the painful dissolution of a marriage, which Jackson compares to "a democracy lost to a monarchy." This leads, in a poem called "Therapy," to "Ashes of fire in his mouth, rain sloshed in/ his head" and to a life with "Stray dogs for company." Yet, there's resolution, a new love: "I am learning/ the steps of a foreign song." This powerful book represents a painful but inspired journey. (Aug.)