Linda Susan Jackson

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“I’m giving back a very small measure of what I’ve received.”
Cave Canem fellow and associate professor in the English Department at Medgar Evers College/CUNY, Linda Susanlives in Brooklyn,NY, not far from the foundation’s headquarters. Proximity, however,does not explain herswift response to the organization’s needs.“Why come running?” she asks. “Because so much about my ‘second life’ would not have happened were it not for Cave Canem.”

At 45,Linda Susan was a deputy commissioner for New York City’s Department of Transportation. One evening, she attendeda fiction workshopat the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center— but, ultimately, it was a poetry workshopled by BJ Ashanti, a member of the Harlem Writers Guild, that ignited her creativity.She thenheard about a reading by a poet named Cornelius Eady.“Who knew about a Cornelius Eady?” she asked, laughing. Linda Susan attended, and she was hooked. Her future trajectory was sealed: poetry’s pull resulted in her early retirement from government. She participated inCave Canem’s retreat, 2002, 2003 and 2006 (to which she was accepted after applying three times), and went on to earnher MA in English and an MFA in Poetry. With those in hand, she began her “second life” as a poet and teacher.

LindaSusan sends Cave Caneman annual check and also contributes her time, taking on such assignments as selling books, meeting with prospective funders and giving readings. She says, “With Cave Canem, one receives a dividend up front. I’m giving back a very small measure of what I’ve received. And giving back does not always mean cash. We poets can give of ourselves, donate time and/or our expertise. All writers need a community.This is what community means.”

Linda Susan is the author of the poetry collection What Yellow Sounds Like (Tia Chucha Press, 2007) and two chapbooks of poems, Vitelline Blues and A History of Beauty. Her work has appeared in the anthologiesGathering Ground and Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South and such journals as Harvard Review, Brilliant Corners, Mission on Tenth, Obsidian, Los Angeles Review, Rivendell and Warpland,among others, and is featured on From the Fishouse.

Read Linda Susan’s “Summer Rice” on line at the Academy of American Poets and excerpts from two poems here.

from April in Germany (for my father)

A Friday morning in ’56,
I’d heard Mulligan was set to gig
on Ramstein Air Force Base,
and Chet Baker, canned
by Mulligan, banned
in America, banished
to Europe, it was rumored,
would also play, and me without
a weekend pass.

© Linda Susan Jackson, 2007

from September 15, 1963

Garrison’s bass carves a canyon
through the mix of pitched peals, speaks
the grave ache for a quartet of parents
who send their four daughters to church
this sunny Birmingham Sunday.

Coltrane’s sax seizes its call as the skin
responds. Keys explode in weary wails.
Roars roll – the rumble tumble of four
dark bodies blown head over head, sounds
spread thick through the Birmingham sky.

© Linda Susan Jackson, 2007