Michael Jackson is an academic, anthropologist, poet and writer of fiction. He is internationally renowned for his vast body of works – winning awards and fellowships for his fiction and poetry, while his articles and ethnographic writing cover issues relevant to an array of cultures.
Jackson’s poetry is characteristically low-key and unpretentious—lean, tightly crafted lyrics or longer sequences. He works often with suggestion or implication, in sharply empathetic observations of Kuranko communities and traditions, in landscape pieces such as ‘Australia’ or ‘Macrocarpas’ from Wall, and in powerful personal poems of love, loss and family.
He is the author of numerous books of anthropology, including the prize-winning Paths Toward a Clearing and At Home in the World, and has also published seven works of fiction, a memoir, and nine volumes of poetry. Jackson’s publications include articles on a wide diversity of issues, such as the impacts of literacy on early nineteenth-century Māori society, or divination, shape-shifting and myth in Kuranko society.
His writings blur the line between formal academic study and more creative and philosophical writing. ‘Barawa’ (1986), explores the history of Northern Sierra Leone, focusing on particular families or dynasties, and drily assessing the expectations and exploits of earlier European ‘discoverers’, before relating his own experience as an anthropologist, the slow processes of building trust and understanding, the recognition that some things are beyond his comprehension.
In 1981, Michael Jackson’s, Wall, received the New Zealand Award for Poetry at the 1981 New Zealand Book Awards and in 1982 he was recipient of the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship. One of New Zealand's most long-standing and prestigious literary awards, the fellowship is offered annually to enable a New Zealand writer to work in Menton, France. In 1994, he was awarded third place at the Montana Book Awards (later renamed the Montana New Zealand Book Awards) for Pieces of Music.
Dead Reckoning (2006) was published by Auckland University Press, and The Accidental Anthropologist (2006) was published by Longacre Press. In 2006, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Victoria University of Wellington.