Ashley Jones /Bham nowArtists & Reviews 

Ashley M. Jones named poet laureate


Ashley M. Jones has been chosen to be the first Black poet laureate for Alabama, according to the Magic City Poetry Festival.

According to information released by the festival, Jones, its founder, received the commendation during a Sunday meeting that was part of the Alabama Writers Cooperative’s yearly conference. Jones, who will be the youngest person to hold the position, follows Jennifer Horne, the 12th person to hold the title.

The poet laureate serves as “the ambassador of poetry for the state,” according to Sunday’s announcement. Activities include touring the state “to make appearances at schools, universities, libraries and other state institutions, as well as give lectures, read poetry and hold workshops on a local and national level.”

“When I was a little girl growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, I made a plan for my life as a poet, and part of that plan — a big, big dream — was to serve as Alabama State Poet Laureate,” Jones said in the statement released by the festival. “I’m so honored to serve my home state as an ambassador, advocate, and as a lover of poetry and all the people who write it, read it, and find new magic from it in this life. I have dedicated my life so far to making poetry accessible to all, to celebrating everyone’s voice, and working to eliminate gatekeeping in our industry. I’m so excited to spend the next four years helping to make Alabama poets and poetry radiate here at home and beyond.”

In a 2018 interview, Jones described a long process of growing to love Birmingham despite its convoluted and often painful racial history. Jones, 28 at the time, said she had to spend time away from the city before she could fully embrace it.

“I don’t think I would have turned to writing about Alabama if I had not left Alabama,” she said. “You hate where you’re from for a long time because of what it did to your people in this place. I was told nothing good happen. … Being in Miami helped me learn that’s not true. The way to get what happened here behind me was to write about my love for (Birmingham) in a way I didn’t know I had

“I decided I had to get back there,” she said. She chronicled the journey in her first book, “Magic City Gospel.”

Once selected, poet laureates are officially confirmed by the governor for a four-year term. Sunday’s statement said that commissioning ceremony will happen “in coming weeks.”

Jones’ third book of poetry, “Reparations Now!” is to be released Sept. 7 by Hub City Press

In addition to Jones’ work with the Magic City Poetry Festival, the Alabama Writers Cooperative, the Alabama Writers Forum and PEN Birmingham, she is a member of the creative writing faculty at the Alabama School of Fine Arts and of the core faculty at the Converse College Low Residency MFA Program. For more information about her work, visit culled/ Lawrence Specker |


Main Photo: Bham Now

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