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This review is taken from PN Review 237, Volume 44 Number 1, September - October 2017.

Cover of Roll Deep
Ian PopleFirst and Third Worlds Major Jackson, Roll Deep (Norton), £12.99

Major Jackson’s fourth collection Roll Deep is announced on the back cover blurb as ‘A remixed Odyssey’. That sense of Odyssey is announced in the first poem of the book entitled ‘Reverse Voyage’. In the poem, the narrator returns to what we assume is his home town, to ‘the silence, oblique, hidden deep inside / the ventricle caves of my body’s chambers, / to nail salons, check cashing stores, pawnshops.’ This sense of place as something both embedded and embodied runs throughout this book; and these are places of return, or Other; cities and countries the writing explores.

That quotation, even found as early as it is in the book, is typical of much of the writing. Jackson impacts a lot into his sentences and his lines. The single verb ‘hidden’ pulls its subject ‘silence’ towards it and then the complements spin out behind it; although the subject is ‘silence’ the agent of ‘hidden’ i.e. who or what hides is, itself, hidden or elided. There is a subtle vowel music here as well. A Jackson line makes you work, and feels worked itself; these are words that need to be read slowly and dwelt on for their full effect to take place; which is, I would imagine, how Jackson would read the poems.

Thus, ‘roll deep’ might be a description of the aesthetic of this book; particularly so in the second section, ‘Urban Renewal’. This part of the book describes Jackson’s visiting Greece, Spain, Brazil, Kenya and Italy. These ‘travel poems’ work, ...

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