CofC Faces to Know: Gary Jackson

CofC Faces to Know: Gary Jackson

Name:  Gary Jackson

Hometown: Topeka, Kansas

Education: B.A. in English from Washburn University, M.F.A. in creative writing/poetry from University of New Mexico

Job title: Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing

How long have you worked at the College? Six years

What are your job responsibilities? I primarily teach all four levels of poetry courses at the College in both the undergrad and graduate programs: Poetry I, Poetry II, Advanced Workshop in Poetry and the M.F.A. Workshop in Poetry. I also teach the occasional special topics course (which usually covers some aspect of poetic form or craft), as well as Academic Writing, and maybe – just maybe – I’ll get the chance to teach a comic book course soon ….

What do you like most about your job? I truly love walking into a classroom and launching into a discussion about good writing, good poetry, and getting to hear students talk about their own aesthetics and what they think makes a good poem a good poem. On my best teaching days, the classroom becomes a hotbed of passionate discussion that involves the entire class.

What question do you get asked most in your job, and what’s your typical answer? “Can you read my poems?” with the implicit or explicit expectation that I’ll give them some editorial feedback and advice. And unless the person is one of my students or a close friend/peer, my answer is almost always, unfortunately,“No.” If I said yes, I’d never have time to read or work on anything else.

What’s your favorite location on campus and why? I love the way the campus looks at night, illuminated by the street lamps – especially when you’re standing in the middle of the central quad where Green Way and College Way intersect. It’s so scenic! And also relaxing, since there are fewer people hustling to get to class.

What are your hobbies? I used to collect comic books, and had a collection of about 10,000. I’m using the past tense because I don’t buy many new comics anymore (though I still buy the occasional graphic novel), and I’ve sold a lot of my collection off in the last 10 years. I still enjoy re-reading old comic books – they’re comforting and excellent for late-night reading; reading prose and/or poetry is usually too stimulating for me to read late at night.

What personal and/or professional accomplishment are you most proud of? I’m not sure! The easy answer would be when my first book was published. But I once had a poem selected as the basis for a short film by an organization called Motionpoems. Almost every year they select a dozen or so poems to turn into short films to comprise a season. For my poem (which deals with superheroes) they decided to make an animated film instead of live action. Being a kid who grew up on superhero comics, and that being the largest influence on me becoming a writer, it was so surreal to see my own poem animated, and featuring Superman no less! For now, that’s the closest I’ll ever get to writing for Marvel or DC. I’ll take it.

Name a creative work (book, movie, performance, etc.) you enjoyed recently and why? I am really enjoying Ada Limon’s poetry collection The Carrying. It’s incredible. Her poems are deceptively narrative, full of risks, and quite a few are – for lack of a better word – transformative. If I try to articulate what it’s about, I’m afraid I’ll be reductive, so I’ll leave it at that.

What was your favorite TV show growing up? I loved, loved The Transformers cartoon when I was a kid, and I’m still a little scarred from watching the animated ’80s film. Spoiler Alert: In that film, they killed off most of the characters from the television show and replaced them with new ones, because they wanted to sell new toys! So they just wiped the old ones away. Another fun fact: It was Orson Welles’ last acting role. I’m pretty sure he hated making it.

What’s next on your bucket list? Making a bucket list.

What is something your campus colleagues would be surprised to know about you? Probably any one of my answers in this interview.

What was your first job? My first real job was working at a local comic book store: Gatekeeper Hobbies. I was still in high school when I got the job, and, in terms of pure odds, I think that may have been the most difficult job I ever applied for: I learned later that somewhere around 200 people applied. And it’s still around! I pop back in every once in a while when I visit back home.

What’s your favorite Lowcountry restaurant? I have a really big soft spot for The Glass Onion. I live in West Ashley, and it’s one of the first restaurants I visited when I moved to Charleston; the food was amazing (they have some of the best po’boys I’ve ever eaten), and the folks there treated me like a regular on my very first visit.

Describe your perfect day: A day I have absolutely nothing to do, no plans, no itinerary, no email or responsibilities. Either at home, or in some new city I’m just visiting. A good beer or cocktail somewhere in the day is always a plus. Good food, even more so. 


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