Poet Ashley M. Jones is a force majeure. I’m lucky to have her as a colleague, so I’ve had a front row seat to watch her meteoric rise over the past few years. In December, she was commissioned as Alabama’s 13th Poet Laureate — she is the first Black poet, the first Person of Color, and the youngest person to ever hold that position. She has been featured in the New York Times, on NPR’s Morning Edition, on the Today show, and on ABC News. She’s been a guest editor at Poetry magazine, where she shined a light on her fellow Alabama poets, and her work has garnered fellowships from the Rona Jaffe Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Alabama State Council on the Arts. Her most recent book is REPARATIONS NOW!
I’m thinking about necessity — how I know when something I write or read feels necessary — and I want to know how other people make sense of that term in the context of their own creative lives. Ashley was gracious enough to share her thoughts on this topic, and I really got a lot out of the conversation.
She was also gracious enough to share a list of 30 Things She Loves Right Now…
30 Things I Love Right Now by Ashley M. Jones
- Waking up at 2am to realize that I have several more sleepable hours
- Goodmorning and Goodnight said by That Person
- My mom’s laughter
- My dad’s laughter in my dreams
- The ease of my new Calendly
- Working with an assistant, aka my younger brother
- Hearing my students laugh with each other about anything at all
- Performance outfits coming together exactly as I imagined them
- The sound of rain (literally, right now, it’s raining)
- My siblings assembling each night at dinner
- OPI Infinite Shine Nail Polish which Does. Not. Chip!!!
- The budding ideas of a critical essay trying to be born in my mind – it’s so innocent at that budding stage…
- The color red
- The smell of coffee
- Aforementioned coffee over ice with caramel creamer
- Eating breakfast every morning with my mom before I head to work
- Jamming in the car, quite equally, to Stevie Wonder, Trick Daddy, Moonchild and Big KRIT
- The way my car seems to know the way home without my brain needed to guide it
- Double masking
- The quiet sound of my bare feet on the floors of the house when everyone’s gone to sleep
- Matching luggage
- Everything In Its Place
- Some Things Out of Place
- Having involuntarily memorized a couple of my poems
- Wearing necklaces in my hair
- New dresses—trying them on with nowhere to go at that moment.
- New dresses—wearing them outside of that try-on moment, with all the energy a new dress gives
- 0:00 – 1:04 || Long, boring lead-in (my fault) (skip it)
- 1:05 – 2:37 || What’s your writing life like these days?
- 2:38 – 7:18 || Do you feel the burden of “necessity”?
- 7:19 – 8:44 || Is that burden different for different genres?
- 8:45 – 12:32 || Audience — do you ever write stuff that isn’t meant for an audience?
- 12:33 – 20:20 || Something(s) that feel necessary to Ashley: two poems by Lucille Clifton, “Why Some People Be Made at Me Sometimes” and “Surely I Am Able to Write Poems”
- 20:21 – 24:22 || Sovereignty — the confidence component of necessity (and of simply being human)
- 24:23 – 27:11 || Being useful and being human, for better or for worse
Re: Lucille Clifton
- Biography page (via poetryfoundation.org)
- Lucille Clifton: A Poet’s Life and Legacy (via BOA Editions)
Re: John Lewis
Re: Bryan Stevenson
- About Bryan Stevenson (via eji.org)