[The Big Smoke reading group]
"Hurt Business", also the title of this first section of poems in the volume, features Adrian Matejka's construction of Jack Johnson's earliest brawls. We also receive an account of Johnson's earliest motivation for fighting.
In the poem, Johnson is beginning to establish himself as a larger than life hero in the making. He recalls, "Thirteen & I was already strong/ enough to toss a cotton bale out/ of the way like it was a bad idea/ & I could jump five feet backward/ from flat feet." A bale of cotton weighs about 500lbs.
Johnson clearly possessed physical strength. But based on Matejka’s presentation of the boxer in this particular poem, what alerts you to the idea that Johnson was strong minded as well?
--Jeremiah Carter and Howard Rambsy II