June 13, 2024

Ashley M. Jones selected as Alabama poet laureate

Magic City Poetry Festival founder Ashley M. Jones has been named the first Black poet laureate of Alabama.

According to information released by the festival, Jones, an Alabama School of Fine Arts faculty member, received the commendation on Sunday during the Alabama Writers Cooperative’s yearly conference.

At 31, she will be the youngest person and first African American to hold the position, the Birmingham Times reported.

“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.”

The poet laureate serves as “the ambassador of poetry for the state,” according to the announcement. Jones will tour Alabama “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.”

The Poet Laureate of Alabama position was created in 1930 and is a four-year term. The outgoing Poet Laureate is Jennifer Horne.

Jones is expected to attend the commissioning ceremony for the role which will be held at the state capitol.

“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,” Jones said. “I’m so excited to spend the next four years helping to make Alabama poets and poetry radiate here at home and beyond.”

Ashley M. Jones / Twitter

In a 2018 AL.com interview, Jones said she had to leave Birmingham before she could grow to love the city and appreciate its racist history. 

“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 happens. … 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 continued.

Jones unpacked the journey in her award-winning book of poetry titled “Magic City Gospel.”

Jones has also released an award-winning collection “Dark//Thing” and her third book of poetry, “Reparations Now!” drops Sept. 7 via Hub City Press.

“It’s about the experience of being a dark person in America, not just Birmingham,” Jones said about “Dark//Thing” in a 2018 interview. “I was angry, and so are the poems. I don’t need to be quiet about what goes on in America.

“The first book was cute; in this one, I’m not holding anything back, no sugar coating at all,” she continued.

For more information about her work, visit ashleymjonespoetry.com.

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