Poet Maj Ragain Built Community Through Passion for the Written Word

Apr 24, 2018

One of the most beloved members of the Northeast Ohio poetry community has died. 

Kent State University poetry professor Maj Ragain died last week at the age of 77.

Ragain often wrote of growing up in rural Illinois and his arrival in Kent in as a student in 1969, shortly before the May 4th shootings.  He began teaching at Kent in 1981, and for the past 30 years organized the Jawbone Poetry Festival on May 4th weekend.

Ragain inspired generations of students during his tenure, and authored five full-length poetry collections and seven chapbooks.

David Hassler, director of the Wick Poetry Center, says Ragain’s life-long poetic journey began at the age of 8 when polio left him unable to walk…

David Hassler is director of the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University. He credits Ragain for inspiring Northeast Ohio's strong community of writers.
Credit JEFF ST.CLAIR / WKSU

“In some ways he felt lucky that he was broken at such an early age where he was forced to know his own soul, and to get to know that deeper part of himself and speak through that wound.”   

Hassler says Northeast Ohio has a large community of writers, and Ragain was a major voice among them.

“Poets are the means by which a place comes to know itself, and this town has felt known by Maj’s voice, by his loving gaze, his poet’s gaze, and he taught others to give voice to their own lives and their own places.”

Maj Ragain will be remembered at this year’s Jawbone festival in Kent, and at a memorial service the first weekend in June.