What Yellow Sounds Like

Trade Paper – $13.95

ISBN 978-1-882688-33-3
Publication Date
April 2007
Page Count
80 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

What Yellow Sounds Like

What is most compelling about Linda Susan Jackson's debut collection of poems, What Yellow Sounds Like, is the extraordinary self-possession of its young female narrator as she seeks to answer who am I and to whom do I belong? These poems are about the process of shaping the identity of one girl who comes from "a line of technicolor women" who have "honey/suckle buried freely in the folds of their flesh," a girl who comes from "men who bit their tongues,/ate dirt, dust and their pride. Worked anywhere," and could "soar off the ground."
The terrain of Jackson's poems is particular, perilous, loving, humorous, passionate, uncompromising, contradictory--in other words, vastly human. The language is varied and inflected with the blues, and like the blues, pulls readers in through images and details that are both concrete and symbolic. Poem after poem charts the stages of this young girl's development through her relationships with her family, her history, and the America into which she is born that is defined by race, skin color, gender, and class. The narrator develops a profound and essential connection to the legendary singer, Etta James, the "canary colored blues woman" and she recognizes the power in the sound of words as she recollects how Etta James "churned up her roar/to keep other women from dying."  Near the end of the book, her great-grandmother tells her "Everything don't need to be told.  Some things must."  In this moment, the narrator is empowered to decide what to tell and to tell it in her own voice. These poems celebrate the sheer will and determination of the self to seek out and find who or what it needs to grow and prosper.

Because she was homesick for the smell

of Virginia tobacco and pit-roasted hog;

because she longed to hear her big brother

scratch out blues on his box; because

she craved the feel of corn silk

and had six stair-step children

before she was twenty-five,

she went to the funerals of strangers.

-from Family Outing

About the Author
Linda Susan Jackson is the author of two chapbooks, Vitelline Blues (2002) and A History of Beauty (2001), both published by Black-eyed Susan Publishing. She was also a finalist in the 2006 National Poetry Series Open Competition. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies and journals, including Gathering Ground, Heliotrope, Los Angeles Review, Rivendell, Warpland, Brilliant Corners, PMS:poemmemoirstory, Brooklyn Review 20 & 21, Cave Canem VII & VIII, African Voices, and was featured on From the Fishouse audio archive. She is an assistant professor and deputy chair of the English department at Medgar Evers College/CUNY in Brooklyn, New York.
"In What Yellow Sounds Like, Linda Susan Jackson's poems don't only shine because they confess startling truths, they shine because they understand the genius of the blues from the inside out and manage to turn yellow into a deep blues meditation; they are honest and brave poems that take risks, and yet, are poems that sing with the cool assurance of  an artist who knows the emotional power of small, carefully considered gestures." --Kwame Dawes
"Linda Susan Jackson understands the cool notes of pain expressed and repressed. These poems have the emotional depth of  the blues and the polish of cool jazz. They are a great contribution to a long line of poems throughout history about the challenges of the form. In her quiet, forceful way, Jackson is an ambitious and audacious poet." --Elizabeth Alexander 

"In Linda Susan Jackson's stellar debut collection, What Yellow Sounds Like, Jackson's poetry sings with visceral intonation and captivating honesty--qualities that  invoke a spirit that is fundamental to any meaningful understanding of the blues. . . Through the voices that she celebrates and the voices that she creates, Jackson  reconsiders and explores 'that/place where blues leaves/but an utterance, where only/certain sounds reach mystery.'" --Sascha Feinstein