Inspirational, Poetic but most of all talented.
How did you get into slam poetry?
Jonathan: I first got into slam poetry as a senior at Georgia Southern University. Not knowing what this was, I entered a slam and qualified to represent the institution at the 2004 College Union Poetry Slam Invitational. If you asked me then, I definitely would not have seen those poems blooming into a career for me. But words have been making ways…
You have a very strong presence when you’re performing. What methods do you use when you practice a poem for the mic?
Jonathan: I have been a performance artist for nearly 15 years now. It’s been a trial and error thing, but I’ve developed some methods that work for me in practicing a poem. The poem starts in my bones and manifests itself through my body. The poem lets me know when it’s ready to be told. My practice is a great deal of repetition and distraction drills. I write comedic poems. I have to be present to tell the story, or lines will be dropped and punchlines will be missed.
Besides poetry, what other skills do you like to showcase?
Jonathan: I am a spoken word comedian. My humor showcases itself throughout my work,whether I want it to or not. I would very much like to do more stand up comedy in the near future. I’m also a playwright and actor. I’m blessed to be able to do a lot of different things to not only express myself, but also to build my community. I am the founder and executive director of the Fountain City Slam, Inc. This is a youth literary arts organization that I started 10 years ago to offer young people in my community a creative platform, unlike any they’ve experienced before; spoken word.
What was it like for you when you wrote your first chapbook?
Jonathan: Writing my first chapbook was a stressful and therapeutic experience. I had so many poems that I wanted to include. I didn’t necessarily have a theme, rhyme, or reason, aside from the fact that I needed to get my work in book form finally. I was preparing to go on tour. If books are going to sell, it’s going to be on tour. It was healing as I went through poems. I had a poet friend of mine, whom I very much admire, help me edit the poems.
What’s one question you wish people would ask you and what would your answer be?
Jonathan: What is your favorite Toni Braxton song? And my answer would be: “Another Sad Love Song”.
What’s one of your funniest moments on the mic?
Jonathan: One of my funniest on the mic would have to be early on in this journey at Georgia Southern. My slam team attempted to craft/perform a group piece, with very little experience/background on how to do one. Needless to say, the poem was met with crickets. If tomatoes would have been available, we could have had marinara sauce that night. That poem was not it. LOL.
How do you think you make an impact on your community and how can others help you with your goals?
Jonathan: I would like to think I make an impact on my community through my work with local young artists. I’ve been a teaching artist for 15 years. I have been running this nonprofit for 10 years. I’ve had a front row seat to some remarkable work at the hands of young people. Each year I witness young and old people alike discover the power of their voices. It’s a symbiotic and beautiful experience. It’s never too late to make room to tell your story. Someone will be better for it. That someone will be you. Others can help me reach my goals by volunteering and most importantly donating to this worthy cause. All of our programming is free and open to the public. We are empowering young people to pick up pens and paper instead of resorting to gun violence or negative behaviors.
Who do you like to see perform on stage?
Jonathan: Musically, I enjoy Emily King, Anthony David, Meshell Ndegeocello & many more. Poetry wise, I know a million poets. Just a few of the ones that I enjoy watching perform/write are Jasmine Mans, Shacondria “Icon” Sibley, Zack Linly, Jozer Guerero, and Danez Smith
Where’s your dream location to be on the mic and why?
Jonathan: The Jazz Cafe in London would be my dream mic and location. I would kill so many birds with that one stone, as I would proceed to stick around for all of the subsequent neo-soul concerts to follow. They would not be able to get rid of me.
What helps you prepare for a performance?
What’s one topic that you won’t touch and why?
Jonathan: I am not sure at this point. I’m always evolving and opening. I wouldn’t say that there is a topic I wouldn’t address in some fashion in my work. I never know with my crazy self.
What advice would you give a virgin to the mic to help get past stage fright?
Jonathan: Run the poem. Run it in the shower. Run it in the mirror. Run it on the drive to work. Run it on the jog. The best way to get over stage fright is to practice, whatever practice looks like for your lifestyle. It may be mere minutes a day, but take out time to remind yourself of the urgency of your story. You must tell it. Someone must hear it. And then do it all over again.
Do you think there’s a double standard with women in the poetry scene like there is in the workplace?
Jonathan: Yes. If the poems could protect women, they would. I’m sure. This scene is no different than any other scene. Sadly.
What is your favorite poem to perform right now?
Jonathan: The Tao of Annie, one of my older slam poems, remains my favorite poem to perform.
What would you like to see changed in the next 5 years for yourself and the world?
Jonathan: I want to keep doing the culture work and community building that I am doing via my art. I want to continue to see how those seeds will grow and the energizing fruit that they will bear for communities.
How was it for you when you did your first filmed performance?
Jonathan: It was weird because I’m very much a live theatre type of guy. I wasn’t accustomed to having to do multiple takes.
If you could do a duet with any artist, who would it be and what would it be about?
Jonathan: I would love to do a duet with Donny Hathaway. The piece would deal with mental health in the black community. One can dream.
What do you want people to remember about you when they hear your name?
Jonathan: I want people to remember that he walked his talk. I want people to remember that there is more than one way to tell a story. I want people to remember my works, as well as my words.