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Meet the artist: Matthew D. Jackson

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Poet Matthew D. Jackson will present some of his work at the grand opening of his new salon, Parlor 424, on Dec. 6 in downtown Columbus.
Poet Matthew D. Jackson will present some of his work at the grand opening of his new salon, Parlor 424, on Dec. 6 in downtown Columbus. PHOTO BY ANGELA JACKSON

Matthew D. Jackson’s grandmother kept favorite poems from classic writers pinned to a corkboard until the paper holding their words would yellow and curl. As a child, Jackson’s imagination danced to the works’ rhythm and rhyme.

“I always thought they were so interesting, even though I didn’t always understand them,” he said. “But they were important to her, and so they became important to me.”

So much so that he quickly fell in love with lyrical creativity.

Today, Jackson makes his living as a hair stylist at his just-opened downtown shop, Parlor 424. But when he’s not combing through locks, he’s combing through bits of inspiration left by the muse as a spoken-word poet.

He will perform some of his works at his shop’s grand opening, 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 6. Fellow poet Jason Ammerman also will perform.

Jackson is the author of two poetry collections, “Minding My Chaos,” from 2009 and “The Sportsman’s Guide to Field Dressing Man” published last year. Both are available at

He has performed his works at poetry slams locally and throughout Indiana. Plus, he has shared the stage with poetry heavyweights such as Buddy Wakefield, a two-time Individual World Poetry Slam champion featured on National Public Radio, the BBC and HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam.”

Describe your audiences.

I’m in kind of a unique spot, because I’ve gained acceptance from everyone from the street poets to the academic side of poetry as well. Plus, I’ve even done a workshop at a penitentiary on lock-down.

I’ve also done performances at colleges and spoken at churches and funerals.

What do people want to hear?

Some people call me the dead-grandpa guy because of a poem, “Charles Alvin,” I wrote in 2007 about my late grandfather. If they know my work, they are disappointed if I don’t read or recite that one. Maybe this is how Lynyrd Skynyrd felt about “Free Bird.”

What works were you originally drawn to?

I’ve always had a love for the macabre, and I discovered Edgar Alan Poe at an early age thanks to my stepfather. I always had a need to step in and write. I felt like it was something I had to do. And I’ve been able to find a lot of ways to have fun with it.

How would you describe your poetry that people have described as “philosophically tenderizing” to “an emphatic knuckle sandwich?”

I think poetry is a very visual art. I’ve heard people say that good architecture is frozen music. I think the same thing about poetry. Every person I talk to is like a photograph. I’m capturing a little detail of something that might have quickly escaped someone’s notice.

What do you want others to take from your work?

With a comic, you expect them to make you laugh. With a poet or spoken-word artist, our job is to make you laugh, make you cringe, or make you run home and grab grandma. When you want to be Jim Morrison but you can’t sing, you do this.

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