Christ, I was hoping you’d tell me! I do a lot, but “what” exactly I am I’m not totally sure. I write, I read, I coach wrestling, I laugh and drink beer with my wife, I teach at a high school. Of all those, I suppose “teacher” best fits what I am overall, and my most troubling student has always been myself.
Linda, always with the hard questions! Why? Hmmm, well, because, as Whitman said, “the powerful play goes on,” and you can either rage or fold up, and my impulse has always been to fight. If I get too wrapped up in the “why,” though, I travel down some dark alleys. Basically, I guess why I do anything is to make it safely to the pillow at the end of the day, do some good before I cash in, and help others. Writing has made all of that easier. I’m grateful.
I arrived at this place because of my environment and the amazing people who took the time, despite the obvious hazards, to show some interest in me. I was born in Detroit, the magical city, and raised in Dearborn. My parents were my greatest influence. They eventually bought a bar and I received my truest education there, working the kitchen, tending bar, bouncing, cleaning puke out of urinals. Not quite Tom Cruise in Cocktail, huh? But it taught me the reality of work and that I wanted a different path in my life. I went to college to wrestle and blew out my knee and suddenly I had nothing, no purpose, nothing to channel my energy into. Thanks to a great teacher, Albert Glover, that nothing was replaced with poetry. I haven’t stopped writing since.
John Jeffire was born in Detroit. In 2005, his novel Motown Burning was named Grand Prize Winner in the Mount Arrowsmith Novel Competition, and, in 2007, it won a Gold Medal for Regional Fiction in the Independent Publishing Awards. Speaking of Motown Burning, former chair of the Pulitzer Jury Philip F. O’Connor said, “It works. I don’t often say that, but it has a drive and integrity that gives it credible life….I find a novel with heart.” In 2009, Andra Milacca included Motown Burning in her list of “Six Savory Novels Set in Detroit” along with works by Elmore Leonard, Joyce Carol Oates, and Jeffrey Eugenides. His first book of poetry, Stone + Fist + Brick + Bone, was nominated for a Michigan Notable Book Award in 2009. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine calls the book “a terrific one for our city.”