I am pleased to be posting a long-time-in-coming and very special blog-entry in my blog. I have had the tremendous and exciting opportunity to correspond with The Jon Sands, and unsurprisingly, he has provided me with not only answers to my questions, but also words of wisdom. As this semester quickly comes to a close, I’ve had time to reflect on my grand assignment, the task of creating a blog about poems, poets, and everything poetry. At times, creating well-established posts has been difficult; however, I have always remained a fan of poetry. Post after post, alongside a tad bit of research, this blog has provided me with a new perspective for poets, e.g. Jon Sands. Prior to our email exchanges, I found his poetry to be intriguing and true. But now I can comprehend the origin of his themes, and I’m beyond excited to show you all what lies behind Jon Sands’ poems. Without further adieu:
1.) Tell me about your first successful poem… first of all, which poem of yours was this? And how did it make you feel knowing you had written something that contained power? At what age did you write this poem?
This is such a tricky question, because it calls into question what is a successful poem? There are many poems that I look back on now and can easily find their flaws, their weaknesses, the cliches that I did not know were cliches. But the satisfaction from writing them at the time was immeasurable, and I truly believe that the healthy artist (and maybe person) is one who learns but does not regret. It is impossible to find your successes without your lessons, so forward is the only way to move. My first poem that I felt proud of was all simple rhyming couplets and I wrote it in a small leather journal while traveling with my older brother Jacob. I was 21 at the time. It was a metaphor comparing a relationship to a garden and how there is no way for the flowers to bloom if you don’t plant and care for them. Objectively, not the sharpest poem, but I nervously and excitedly read it to Jacob, and he really got it. It was the first time I had intentionally attempted to make sense of something that had only been characterized by emotion, and someone I loved understood. I don’t know that I ever came down from that high. It also teaches me to never rule out that each moment or poem can be a starting point. So it doesn’t bare the responsibility of success, only motion. That’s one I have to learn over and over again.
2.) What did you want to be when you were growing up? I don’t usually hear little children say, I want to a be an awesome poet. How did you transition from ___ to poet?
I was afraid of change, and “graceful transition” is a skill that I am slowly learning to acquire as I age. I always wanted to be a teacher, but when I was in first grade I was sure I would be a first grade teacher, and the same for second grade, and so on, so it wasn’t a surprise that I went to college and majored in education, but gradually felt that I’d rather teach at the university level. I never in earnest pursued a full-time high school teaching position. By the time I graduated I had fully caught the creative writing bug (which is maybe in some ways an adult teacher) and moved to New York City, where I took a job as a paralegal, and sought out all poetry venues I could find. That was in 2006, and by the end of 2007 after a packed year of ups and downs, and the firm realization that what I was actually seeking was a creative community that I could have pride and residency in, I left my paralegal job to tour the country, and I’ve been a working poet and educator ever since. That was where I was at, but that paralegal job was excellent, and I could definitely still see a future for me that merges the writing and the political/legal world.
3.) Currently, I am in a creative writing class, and we are writing our own poetry. Personally, I love to write poetry, but I have trouble really locating the words that best suit the poem. What piece of advice would you give to a group of struggling poets? In my class at Georgia Tech., we are all either engineering or science majors, and we are all in our early twenties. What piece of advice would be most advantageous to us?
Poetry is there to serve you, not the other way around. I would say two great pieces of advice I’ve received from many different mediums are to pursue knowledge (and this includes creative influences, as well as information about the world around you), and then to sound like yourself. You need not adjust your basic voice or individuality for your art. Or simplify your complicated heart. It can feel like you’re doing it wrong, because you don’t see anyone else writing like you are. But in actuality that is the root of your strength.
4.) Tell me about one of your role models in life… a friend, a parent, a sibling. I find it interesting to see where someone finds inspiration, and since your poems are so straightforward and real, I am very curious to see who has been one of your greatest fans, assuming, your role model is also a fan of yours.
I am blessed to have a mother and father that together have modeled a dynamic love of people, communication, and the world. I am also truly grateful that they are fans of mine. My poems often have a tendency to unpack stories that are rooted in the complicated dynamics of family, and I don’t know whether it would be possible for me to write those poems without a base knowledge of their support, and it is truly a privilege to not have to find out. There’s way more unpacking of the answer to this question in this essay