Poet Laureate speaks at JSU for reading series

Alabama Poet Laureate, Ashley M. Jones, reads some of her poems at the Write, Southerners! reading series. Photo courtesy of Anna Barrett.

Anna Barrett, Correspondent

Alabama Poet Laureate, Ashley M. Jones, shared her most successful poem “All Y’all Really From Alabama” as part of the Write, Southerners! reading series hosted by the Department of English on Wednesday.

Jones’ poem took her to Good Morning America (GMA) after being the first black woman, and youngest, to receive the title of Poet Laureate. She later spoke about her experience as Poet Laureate and her inspirations.

The topics of her poems mostly include her family, God and her experience with racism. “All Y’all Really From Alabama” is no exception. Jones considers this poem to be her greatest hit, as it took her to GMA where she was able to represent the state of Alabama and make a statement against racism.

Jones makes the argument in the poem that discrimination and racism is everywhere and is not confined to a geographical area. The title comes from the belief that everybody has some sort of connection to Alabama, whether it is a “forgotten cousin” or a “far-gone ancestor.”

Write, Southerners! brought Jones to JSU, where she read eight poems from her book, “REPARATIONS NOW! These poems included “Hymn of Our Jesus and the Holy Towtruck,” “Home Security,” “ Photosynthesis,” “She is Beauty, She is Grace,” “God Made My Whole Body,” “Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane #106” and “Reparations Now, Reparations Tomorrow, Reparations Forever.”

After she read her poems, Jones held a question and answer section of the event. She answered many questions, but the most important were “What makes a home for you?” and “Who are your biggest influences and inspirations when it comes to writing?”

“Home is wherever I feel at peace and cared for,” Jones said. 

Although growing up in Alabama, Jones always had the mindset that she needed to get out and move away, like most people who live in a small town. She said she felt the most cared for in Alabama.

Her inspirations include Kevin Young, Rita Dove and Lucille Clifton, who served as the Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1979-1985.

According to the release from JSU’s English Department, Jones received an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University, where she was a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Fellow. She has also held many titles in Florida, as well as competed in many writing competitions throughout her career as a poet.

“Art has a way of bringing us together, creating community and capturing memories,” Jones said as her final remark.

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