In introducing “Some Kind of Crazy,” Jackson talks about the Theatre of the Absurd, a label used to describe dramatic works of European and American dramatists based off of an assertion made by Albert Camus that “the human situation is essentially absurd, devoid of purpose.” Works within the Theatre of the Absurd are written from a distanced perspective, as if looking down on human’s actions. Keep this concept in mind while watching the video below and listen closely to how Jackson introduces the poem before he begins reading.
Major Jackson reads “Some Kind of Crazy”
Some Kind of Crazy
It doesn’t matter if you can’t see
Steve’s 1985 CORVETTE: Turquoise-colored,
Plush purple seats, gold-trimmed
Rims that make little stars in your eyes
As if the sun is kneeling
At the edge of sanity. Like a Baptist
Preacher stroking the dark underside
Of God’s wet tongue, he can make you
Believe. It’s there; his scuffed wing-
Tips, ragged as a mop, shuffling
Concrete, could be ten-inch FIRESTONE
Wheels, his vocal chords fake
An eight cylinder engine that wags
Like a dog’s tail as he shifts gears. Imagine
Steve, moonstruck, cool, turning right
Onto RIDGE AVENUE, arms forming
Arcs, his hands a set of stiff C's
Overthrowing each other’s rule,
His lithe body and head snap back
Pushing a stick shift into fourth
Whizzing past UNCLE SAM’S PAWN
SHOP, past CHUNG PHAT’S STOP & GO.
Only he knows his destination,
His limits. Can you see him? Imagine
Steve, moonstruck, cool, parallel
Parking between a PAGER and a PINTO—
Obviously the most hip backing up,
Head over right shoulder, one hand
Spinning as if polishing a dream;
And there’s Tina, wanting to know
What makes a man tick, wanting
A one-way trip to the stars.
We, the faithful, never call
Him crazy, crackbrained, just a little
Touched. It’s all he ever wants:
A car, a girl, a community of believers.
Published version from Furious Flower: African American Poetry from the Black Arts Movement to the Present (2004).
1. What is something you want so much you can practically see it? Describe it.
2. Who or what is your ideal “community of believers?”
3. How do you feel you represent the future?
1. In Jackson’s introduction, he says, “in college you learn about the Theatre of the Absurd peering down on those guys and, um, I grew up in North Philly and there was this guy named Steve who used to walk around for years like he was driving a car.” Does Jackson’s portrayal of Steve agree or disagree with the assertion of the Theatre of the Absurd? Why or why not?
2. Jackson goes on to say, “you come to understand that yeah, your neighborhood is kind of absurd, but people like Steve are family, y’know.” What does this statement tell you about the value of community in African American culture?
| WORD CHOICE
1. Poets often utilize specific words or phrases to convey their meaning. This is referred to as word choice. Pick what you believe to be the most important word from each stanza and explain the importance of each word.
2. Rewatch the video and pay attention to the differences between Jackson’s reading and the published version of the poem. Do you think there is a significance in Jackson’s change in word choice or omission of stanzas? Why?
1. Sometimes, we associate certain words with specific images. Poets often utilize these descriptive words, or imagery, to create a picture. How does Jackson utilize imagery to describe Steve’s car? Use examples from the poem to support your explanation.
2. In “Some Kind of Crazy,” Jackson uses imagery to paint a picture of his community. As a representative of the “bright future” of African American poetry, how is Jackson’s use of imagery paying homage to his roots?
1. Write a nine-line poem using the words you chose earlier. Only use one of your chosen words per line and keep the words in the same order as they appear in Jackson’s poem.
2. Think about your community, the good, the bad, and the absurd of it. Using imagery, write a paragraph (at least five sentences) about your community.
Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Theatre of the Absurd.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Edited by Kathleen Kuiper, www.britannica.com/art/Theatre-of-the-Absurd. Accessed 3 April 2019.