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David L. Jones Speaks Out!

David Jones: Interview and Sampling of Poetry

 

David Jones, onstage

Judih speaks with Spoken Word performance poet, David L. Jones

David is a dynamic spoken word poet whose energy comes across the printed page in the modern-day blues of an urban survivor. I first came across his work online in 2006, at a poetry site on Tribes.net. His unique voice marked him as a unique spoken word artist.

He’s regularly performed at open mics in the U.S., performed with the Little Red Studio theater troupe in Seattle, WA, and has published works including “eros besmirched” and “Dark Storms – Race Gender and Politics“. His most current work can be found on his blog, D. Jones, poet (http://www.djonespoet.com).

Since hearing him and reading his work, I’ve wanted to know more about what inspires him. Let’s begin.

Full Name: David Lee Jones

Birthplace: Wheatcroft, Ky. Registered at Morganfield, Ky.

Auburn, Washington, USA

Favourite childhood memory: Canning food with my mother and hunting rabbits with my father.

Questions:

Judih:  Could you offer a description of yourself as a poet?

D: Well, the most apt description is in my bio, but to put it in a short form, I attempt to speak the pain of others who may not have the opportunity to speak. I try to articulate what I’m feeling as a common black man in America in these turbulent times. I tend to view my poetry as a chronicle rather than poetry per se.

J: How did you get started?

D: In high school, after the deaths of my parents, I was taken under the wings of 3 bisexual teacher’s aides who saw an opportunity to save a young black male who was not already corrupted by the system. I also had a counselor, Carolyn McCormick, who was integral to my growth as a writer. I think they saw that since I wasn’t from the urban environment, they might have a chance to help me avoid things like crime, gangs and drugs and they used my interest in poetry to do that.

J: Who has inspired you over the years?  Artists, poets, musicians, others?

D: Can’t say that I’ve read a lot of other people, but I was drawn to Malcolm X at a young age, Martin as well, but Malcolm more so, and I’m very impressed with Mumia Abu Jamal. His speeches from death row are very inspirational to me. As far as names…lol…well, Chuck D, Tupac, George Clinton, Aretha Franklin, Robert Johnson, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Beethoven, Chopin, Bach, Eminem, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Bukka White, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Metallica, the whole range of music speaks to me. I don’t listen to the music so much as I listen to what the artist is saying. Musicians are, in my opinion, poets who felt the need to augment their words…lol…I’m not so gifted to be able to play an instrument or paint so I have only my words to give. I haven’t seen a lot of art, but I am very impressed with Bosch, Goya and also Jeff Hengst, whom I worked closely with during my time at Little Red Studio. I’m not well versed in the art world but I know what I like when I see it. I do watch a lot of movies though and I guess my favorite would have to be Mandingo directed by Dino De Laurentis. Oh yeah, and Bukowski, can’t forget him.

Judih: I’d like to include one of my favourite poems of yours, “Not Until”, so before we continue, let’s listen to you (click the link below)

Not Until, David L Jones

J: Do you have a method to your writing that you could share?

D: I have a muse and djinn, they both speak to me. The muse gives me the light stuff, you know, the loving sexy erotic stuff, and the djinn gives me the darkness and articulates the pain. I write a lot at night and when I’m alone. I write when I’m drunk, depressed or horny, you know, the regular sorts of inspirations. I also write when a person’s character strikes me. I think I have a poem about you somewhere, if not, I should write one, you are worthy of poetry you know. I rarely edit because I believe that the poem writes itself, the poet simply channels it onto the page or through the microphone or whatever.

 

David, "Lullaby Moon"

 

J: Do you listen to music while you work? If so, who or what kind?

D: No, I don’t listen to music when I write; it’s distracting and makes it hard to hear the voices in my head.

J: Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve done? Can you offer it here?

D: Wow, hard question. I consider all my poems as my children and it’s hard to pick a favorite, the others will be upset…lol…, but if I had to pick one, it would be “Liberty Wears A Strap-on

Liberty Wears a Strap-On

 

Liberty wears a strap-on

and if you don’t believe,

just ask the Haitians,

Mexicans,

or even the Chinese.

 

Liberty used to be

such a nice young girl,

holding up her flaming torch

a beacon to light the world.

 

But nowadays,

it seems that light is gone,

and you can ask any Muslim:

Liberty wears a strap-on.

 

Give me your tired

huddled masses,

yearning to be free,

and I’ll fuck them all

with no Vaseline.

 

A strap-on is America’s

tool to invade.

If you don’t think so,

just ask the Guatemalans

resting in their graves.

 

Liberty wears a strap-on

it’s plain to see.

She surged in the Indians

and came all over slavery.

 

Justice is a woman

and they say she’s blind,

her friend Liberty

is trying to surge in my behind.

 

Behind closed doors

where the deals are made,

Liberty and Justice

play for pay.

 

Liberty and Justice

in the land of the brave–

sounds like a triple X

movie is being made.

 

Liberty fucks Justice.

Justice loves her too.

Liberty wears a strap-on

and she’s ready to fuck you.

.

About Spoken Word


J: When did you start performing at open mics? Can you offer any tales of amazing performances or interesting audience reactions?

D: I started performing at open mics during high school which was back in the mid 70’s, never went over well. I did a reading with a friend of mine named Jason Ammerman a long while back, well after high school, it was my first nude reading. It was Father’s day and we were reading at a speakeasy underground thing in a house in Bloomington, In. Jason is a kick ass poet and we were all about one upping each other back in those days, both being angry poets. I did a series of erotic poetry and removed a piece of clothing at the beginning of each poem, by the end I was naked and reading the last poem. It got me laid…lol…so I guess it’s good for something. There were many readings that I did at Little Red Studio with an amazing woman, Eileen Fix, that were awesome as well. She and I were instrumental in bringing poetry to the fore there. We made people very aroused with our poetic play. These days, I specialize in “pin drop” moments, you know, where the audience can’t believe that someone would say the things that I say. I like doing that.

J: I like that: “pin drop moments”. What makes a good open mic?

D: A microphone. Seriously though, audience reaction is a big factor, however I’ve read at some open mics where it was only poets reading to each other. I suspect that every performing poet has had their share of doing that. You have to just power through it. My thing is to read the poem the way it felt when it was written, regardless of who hears it. It’s always an open mic when you speak to God, and he is always a good audience.

J: David, have you been filmed during performance? If so, is it something that intrudes on your space?

D: I’ve been filmed once that I know of, it was during a sermon I wrote called “The Book of Cock”. I’ve had people take pictures, but no, it doesn’t intrude on my space at all, though people have told me that I should hold still for the camera, or that something went wrong with the shot. Blame it on my muse and djinn…lol…

Speaking out

J: Your work deals with subjects from the extremely personal to a general call-out to stand up and take notice.  How important is it to you to speak out?

D: It’s very important that poets speak out because people need to know that there are those of us whose voices may not be heard and that we have something to say which could benefit society as a whole. I try to keep a balance. “Too much light will blind you, and too much darkness will cause you to lose your way.” It’s also important that people understand that the political is also personal, that political actions have an effect on the personal level and in the society as a whole.

J: Is poetry is a tool for therapy in your own life? If so, could you offer a poem that helped cleanse an especially raw node within you?

D: Yes, poetry is my primary therapy. It’s better that I say things than do things. It gives me a chance to get stuff out and because it’s seen as art, I don’t end up in a mental ward as some raving lunatic. A poem that has helped me a lot is “Fear of a Black Planet” which helped me understand why white women were so scared of me.

Fear of a Black Planet

 

Yea, I have looked

upon thy face

with mine own eyes

observing thus

a fear by which

reason hath

fled thy being

 

Thine eyes have

witnessed askance

the black moor

and verily fear

hath caused consternation

to sit astride

thy countenance

 

Thy breast

being lily white

trembles at the thought

of Moorish hands

weighing the balance

of thy female fruits

 

For this reason

thy face turns from mine

and the dove wings

of thy hands

soil not themselves

upon the muddy terrain

of my skin

 

Ere the seed

of my niggardly loins

should chance light

upon the threshold

of thy fair temple

thou wouldst first

death

before birthing the mulatto

 

So completely

have I behold thy

fear of a black planet

me thinketh milady shuns

even the darkness of sleep

lest she linger too long

in its grasp

 

Now flee, flee

distressed damsel

beset by darkling horrors

imagined in thy

madness

Call again

the constabulary dogs

to avenge imagined slights

to thy snowy womanhood

 

Thy sanctity abraded

by my pardon

apologies for existence

upon deaf ears fall

thy eyes blue with fear

seek white knights

to mentally slay

yon black dragon

as a chariot

whisks milady away

to the safety of

snow white Elysian Fields

.

J: Which subjects in life stir you – which social issues do you feel are most urgent to deal with?

D: Right now, I’m concerned with the depressed state of the American mindset. People seem to have a vacant and distant look about them, more so than I remember at any other time in my life. Relationships between people are also a topic I frequently write about. Sex, race, gender, politics, economics, life, death, religion are all valid subjects and social issues that I write about.

J: Do you think poets have the ability to shake up people’s minds? Can you give examples – either anecdotal or a poem that you know has shaken up an audience.

D: Yes. Poets have not only the ability but a responsibility to shake people up. The first time I read the liberty poem, my friend Jeff told me not to read it again at Little Red Studio because it shook a lot of people up, this was during the first days of what I call the “muslim madness” that has swept America. As you know, some of my poetry is not very flattering to women. I’ve been told that my sentiments were not appreciated by more than one woman and several men after reading poems about gender. I wrote a poem for a guy, George Sodini, it still causes a stir when I read it. It’s called “Insanity Defense”.

Insanity Defense

 

Thirty women dead

and

fifty more wounded

he’s writing again

albeit

with a different pen

on a different pad

 

He used to

Howl

with pain and anger

He used to

plead

with tears

and hesitant touches

 

Now his touch

is not hesitant

and the screams

do not come

from his throat

nor tears

from his eyes

 

His muse

has death

in her touch

She has embraced him

in blood red wings

and kissed him

with her savage mouth

 

The color is red

Before his eyes

the audience

unmoving

He is a poet

He reloads

and writes

.

J: You’ve worked with the Little Red Studio theater troupe. How did that come about? And how has that experience affected your own performance?

D: Well, Eileen Fix was responsible for that. She and I were reading at a little place in Seattle which was hosted by Red Sky Poetry. We used to duel with our poems. At the time I was a horrid misogynist and she continually challenged me about that. One night after a poetry reading, she called me to come over to her house and she decided to “cure” me by fucking me silly…lol…, afterwards she introduced me to Jeff Hengst who was putting on this little thing called Little Red Studio. She and I had begun having a relationship and the poetry that came out of that was some fierce erotic stuff. I still dedicate poems to her when I read stuff from that era. Little Red Studio gave me an audience to explore my eroticism and sexuality which is reflected in my writings. She and it made me a much better poet.

Developing as a Poet

J: How can a poet work to become better?

D: Read your work with the same spirit you wrote it with. I’m not one for editing overly much, but sometimes it makes for a better poem, don’t be afraid to edit. Poetry is art, art either French kisses you or puts its foot in your ass, if it doesn’t do either of those things, it’s entertainment, in my opinion.

J: Do you think that writing poetry is a talent that can be learned?

D: No, but anyone can do entertainment, just look at television. Poetry is something that you feel from a very deep place. Poetry is your soul singing, you don’t learn to give it a voice, you let it sing.

J: Do you sing? Have you ever put your poetry to music?

D: I do sing privately, have never sung on the mic, and no, never thought about putting my poetry to music because I don’t play an instrument, but I have found that jazz works with it sometimes. Currently, the group I’m working with called Floating Mountain Poets (www.floatingmountainpoets.com) have been reading at a little place called the Faire Gallery. They have a house jazz band that plays behind us sometimes and that seems to work. I’m looking more into it, but for now it’s a casual acquaintance.


Poetry in Education

J: Have you worked with children or teenagers? Would you consider mentoring a young poet (encouraging, offering advice, etc)?

D: No, though I have shared the stage with my son several times. I don’t know how I could be a mentor, other than just being the poet that I am. Actually, I’d fear that I’d corrupt someone young and impressionable…lol…

J: (Since this is our first “R” rated interview, I see what you mean!) In general, are you in favor of teaching poetry in schools?  If so, are there any poets you’d personally select for young teenagers?

D: Yes, poetry should be taught in schools. It saved my life more than once. I can’t say which poets I’d select for a poetry program for a school, but I certainly wouldn’t suggest myself. I’d start them with the classics, Shakespeare, Blake, Ginsberg, Kerouac and those guys, the Beat poets, and then let them go from there.

J: Does the idea of running an open mic in schools interest you? Could you give some pros and cons?

D: I would never even think about trying to go into a school and do anything like that. My poetry is not suitable for an educational setting.

Popularity of Poetry

J: Do you think that poetry has become more popular over the years?  Do you see a difference in your audiences?

D: No. poetry is on the wane here in America. People are less literary than when I was younger. On the other hand, I was at a “Youth Speaks” poetry open mic last night that was amazing, so I suppose there is hope. My audience has pretty much been adult my whole poetic life, so no, I haven’t seen much of a change in my audience. It is my hope that the young people that I have heard will continue writing and reading and that they will evolve as poets.

J: Any final comments? Are there any questions you would have liked me to ask, or any other comments you’d like to include? Feel free to add any poems or links.

D: Not really, I think you have probed me quite in-depth. This is the first interview I’ve ever had as a poet. You asked very relevant questions and some hard ones I might add. I would have expected no less of you Judih. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, and I’ll conclude with a couple of poems about writing, one very old and one quite new, Pretend Poet”.

Pretend Poet

 

I am what you’d call

a pretend poet–

one who writes

short missives of pain

not socially relevant

to the times and ears

of critics.

 

I am a pretend poet,

one who pours out his

heart

like dust that falls

unnoticed

to the ground.

 

I am a pretend poet,

one who sits alone

with a pen and paper,

scribbling something

stupid, selfish,

written out of fear

of himself

 

I am a pretend poet,

one who chronicles his own

self pity,

blind to

the bigger scheme of things

which revolve

like a maelstrom of possibilities

just out of reach.

 

I am not a poet.

I’m just some fool

who wanders in here

every Friday,

practicing catharsis

to keep living,

breathing,

even though the sounds

of his breath

make no sense at all.

 

I am what you’d call

a farce, a fluke.

What I write is a comedy of errors,

a sojourn in ignorance

and unworthy of your ears.

 

I may be many things,

foremost

a court jester.

but I am not a poet.

 

Portrait of David L Jones

And one very new…”Why I Don’t Write”

Why I Don’t Write

 

I don’t write

because I am tired by

too many situations

happening at the same time

like trying to watch

all the clouds

at once

 

Do the countless institutional forms

count as poetry?

the repeated reverberations

of my essential information

asked over and over

like the echo of a past

I’ve been chained to

 

Do I have to know everything?

all the time?

as if I were a living tome

of bad memories and mistakes

Can I forget how to write my name?

forget how to spell emotions

in such a way that you’d understand?

 

Do I need to write my lust

on scraps of paper

when the message

can be plainly seen on my face?

read by anyone not blinded

by art, poetry, too many books

Can I be heard outside the song?

 

Sometimes I don’t write

because I hate the pen

hate the poetry

the way ones hates

a nagging, overbearing lover

the way the whore hates the pimp

the way paper hates fire

 

I don’t want to write anymore

because it’s futile

like wishing on stars

whistling at women

and spilling your heart

to the uncaring illiterate mass

of bleating sheeple

 

I don’t want to write this

blathering excuse for a poem

this redundant exercise in futility

this misanthropic screed

oozing forth like blood

spilled on a xenophobic landscape

during a relentless war

 

I want to break all the pens

burn all the books

silence the singers

blind the artists

tear the tongues from the poets’ mouths

If you didn’t know me

when I touched you

 

you never will

.

David in performance

J: Thanks so much, David.

D: Thank you Judih, it was an honor to have you interview me.

Editor’s note: for updates on David’s appearances at Open Mics as well as his latest work, check out his blog.


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One response to “David L. Jones Speaks Out!

  1. Pingback: David Jones – 2 spoken word pieces « Poet Speaks Out

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