Poet John Freeman was born on 20 December 1942 in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from Madison-Ridgeland High School north of Jackson, he earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Millsaps College and a master’s degree from Mississippi College and did further graduate work at the Universities of Iowa and Arkansas. Freeman recalled having “the very good fortune to study under James Whitehead at Millsaps and Arkansas and J. Edgar Simmons at Mississippi. These wonderful Mississippi poets and human beings largely shaped me as a writer and a person.” Freeman’s childhood in Jackson and at his grandparents’ farm in Lake shaped his writing, so that, in Freeman’s words, “Mississippi is the subject of my poetry.”
Freeman taught English and creative writing at Tarleton State University and Mississippi State University before spending several years working as an assistant manager of a marina, an industrial manager, and a preacher. In 1976 he began teaching high school English and implemented a remedial English program at Oakley Training School, Mississippi’s reform school for incarcerated boys. He also served as the school’s interim principal, assistant principal, staff development coordinator, state testing coordinator, and computer literacy director. Freeman is also a former professional musician and songwriter. Since retiring, Freeman has lived in Hattiesburg, Biloxi, Gulfport, Fort Walton Beach, and New Orleans. He is the current poetry editor of Magnolia Quarterly, a literary journal associated with the Gulf Coast Writers Association.
Freeman has published three volumes of poetry. His poetry is distinguishably southern yet often transcends the regional label, incorporating universal themes of love and pain. His sparse yet elegant language and thematic poignancy rank highly among contemporary poets. Some of his best works are the Choctaw poems in his third collection, In the Place of Singing. In the South the past is often not past, and reconnecting to it is nothing new. However, by exploring a southern heritage that is largely lost and using the Choctaw language, Freeman puts a new spin on a tested formula.
- John P. Freeman, Illusion on the Louisiana Side (1994)
- John P. Freeman, In the Place of Singing (2005)
- John P. Freeman, Standing on My Father’s Grave (2001)
- Gulf Coast Writers Association website, www.gcwriters.org