How Art Saved My Life – David Jones performs

David Jones on google chat

I was lucky enough to connect to David Jones, this morning. He had just returned from a dress rehearsal for the event “How Art Saved My Life“, a project conducted by Vita Arts, a group of experienced artists dedicated to applying art to the process of healing. The show will be performed in Seattle, Saturday night Jan 15 at 7:00 pm.

Beforehand, there’s a workshop offering hands-on support for women in need of artistic expression to help alleviate trauma. Click onto the link to find out how to attend.

This amazing project needs our support. I spoke to David about his role.

Judih: Tell me about your newest project

David: I’m involved in a play, a series of vignettes called ‘How Art Saved My Life’. Its about how art plays a seminal role in the lives of abused women. I was chosen to participate in the story in order to give a voice to the abuser.  There will be aerialists and performers.  I’m very excited about it

I actually play the role of the abuser and I’m wearing a suit.

Judih: Why a suit?

David: The abuser can be everyman, someone you can see on the street, a familiar figure, rather than a stereotypical version of a rough wife-beater, wearing a wife-beater undershirt. We wanted to make him look like a man everyone has seen, regardless of his stature in society.

If people were exposed to the possibility of what goes inside the head of the abuser, perhaps they would be more aware of the problem.

Judih: Is your part scripted or are you performing improv.

David: It’s scripted. I actually wrote two poems for the event: One ‘The Bad Guy’ is the abuser declaring himself – showing his lying and his cheating.  The poem reveals a lot about the abuser himself. He does a lot of this out of fear, of himself, of the women in his life, and certain things that he is unable to control

The second “I Survived You” deals with how the abused became the abuser, because abusers don’t just wake up one day and start to abuse others – it’s a process. This piece relates stories of the abuse he’s suffered in the past, all at the hand of women. This piece is based on facts from my own life.  I use anecdotes of abuse I personally experienced and which colours a lot of the misogynism in my work.

There’s something that someone said that we must remember: “All abusers, all these men had mothers.” They all had women in their lives. There are statistics that are out now that talk about abuse in the home towards children. True that men overwhelmingly are the major source of domestic abuse , but these new stats show that in abuse against children, the perpetrators are women.

In my poem “I Survived You” that’s a true story. My mother  used to send me out to the backyard to get a switch to beat me.

Judih: How do you think that How Art Saved My Life can help heal the victims of abuse?

David: I’m hoping that the audience can see that art has a healing effect on the abused and is capable of changing the life of the abuser. I’m hoping that they come away with an understanding of how each is damaged by the mores of our society. The abused are damaged and the abuser is damaged as well.  How can I say this? The persecuted becomes the persecuter: it’s cyclical.

And each has their part to play.

And I’m hoping that this project will illuminate everyone’s part and show where they have common ground. Hopefully this can lead to indicate what each can do to bring some healing or reconciliation in their lives. I maybe dreaming. I’m hoping it’ll be a healing opportunity for people.

If tonight’s dress rehearsal was any indication, people will be affected.  One woman approached me after I performed my first poem and told me that she couldn’t believe that I had written those words, that I dared to say them outloud. She was  shocked and angry. I obviously touched something in her. But I didn’t push the issue, I said nothing.

Judih: It would seem that this woman used your ‘character’ to express what needed expressing – you provided her with an opportunity to vent her fury.

David: Yes.

Judih: Will there be some kind of follow-up, some form of group support?

David: I’m not sure, but there is an earlier workshop that will offer chances for expression.

Judih: I’d like to know if you have ever sensed an audience and changed the atmosphere mid-way through a poem?

David: No. I look at the audience beforehand and decide what I’m going to read. Sometimes people expect the darkness, and I will give them the light. It has just as much of an impact, as if I would give them the darkness that they expected.

Judih: As Allen Ginsberg used to go on stage and simply perform without notes, have you ever tried to live mic it?

David: I’ve had no  experience with that. I don’t think I would be good at getting on the mic and coming up with poetry. As I tell people all the time, I’m not a rapper. I can’t rap!  And, in fact, I think if I did, I’d get too dark for most people, so no, I’ve never gotten up on the mic and done a poem from the moment of feeling.  I tend to craft my poems.

Although people have often suggested I’d be good at stand-up, in that kind of Chris Rock, Paul Mooney kind of way.

Judih: I don’t know Paul Mooney. I’ll google him.

How long will ‘How Art Saved My Life’ be running?

David: Just one night, Saturday, Jan 15, 2011, in Seattle.

Judih: I wish this blog had a larger reading audience. I’d love to be able to push this event. It sounds wonderful.

David: Well, I just want to say that I boast that I’ve been interviewed by a blogger in Israel. And I want to thank you for your time and your interest.

Judih: I’d like to be able to get your words out to as many people as possible.

David: Well, as my father used to say: Once the words are said, they don’t just go away. They keep on going. And Bob Marley said: words are power. Just because you don’t hear them anymore, doesn’t mean that they aren’t affecting someone. They still ripple out.

Judih: That’s the truth.

All the best to you on your performance in ‘How Art Saved My Life’ and I hope to speak to you again. I want to sign off with the two pieces featured in ‘How Art Saved My Life’. Thank you, David.

David Jones, Jan 14/15 Seattle/Israel time

The bad guy

I’m the bad guy

The one who cheated on you

With your best friend

Her marriage broke down

And I took advantage of her

And you

She told you

But my lies were better

Than her hard truth

I’m the bad guy

The one who hit you

When you questioned me

Coming in hours late

Smelling of alcohol

Having wrecked your car

Ran up your card

And denied it all

I’m the bad guy

That molested your daughter

When you trusted me

And didn’t have money

For a decent babysitter

Or available daycare

I told you she was sick

But I was the sick one

I’m the bad guy

Who screamed at you so loudly

It hurt your ears

When you told me

The utilities were due

The rent was late

The baby needed diapers

And you couldn’t do it all alone

I’m the bad guy

Who stole money from you

For drugs


Nights out philandering

While you sit at home

Wondering where I was

Or whether I was alive

I’m the bad guy

Because I don’t know

How to tell you

How afraid I am

Of life

Of you

Of myself

Of the beast inside

I’m the bad guy

I didn’t start out this way

I was your lover, brother

Father, friend, uncle

Co-worker and any other man

Too afraid

To tell you

The truth

-DJones 2010


I Survived You

I survived you


When you told me

“Go get me a switch boy”

Beat me with it

Until it broke

Went and got another

Bigger one yourself

And then

Told my father

Who reluctantly beat me again

So he wouldn’t appear


In front of you

I survived you

Laura Lovan

In 1962 when I helped you

With your books

You had dropped

Later when

Your racist brother

And his friends

Beat the shit out of me

You watched

And said nothing

I survived you

Miss Hopper

In 1963

When you would send

Your disruptive little monkey

To the principal’s office

To be beaten with a board

For asking questions

Or mentioning

Martin or Malcolm

I survived you


When you had sex with me

At your house

Because you were curious

About black boys

Once your curiosity

Was sated

You never spoke to me


I survived you


When you took my kids

To a foreign country

While I was at work

Filed for divorce


Irreconcilable differences

Then married a crack head

That threatened them

When he was high

I survived you


When you grabbed my ears

Dug your nails

Into the side of my head

Screamed at me

That you loved me

Threw a kitchen chair at me

And made me sleep

On the couch

With one eye open

I survived you

Making me the bad guy

Telling me I was worthless

Ridiculing me for crying

Silencing my fears

With your contempt

Your rejection

Your betrayal

I survived you

But the damage is plain to see

-D Jones 2010


Check David’s blog: for updates on performances, poetry and publications.