A Conversation with Jon Sands

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 understoodI 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.






            Last Thursday night I attended a Poetry@Tech event. This is a poetry event held at Georgia Tech where three poets read some of their work over the course of an hour and a half. The event is held in the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum, an interesting building, located on the edge of Georgia Tech’s campus. Over the course of my three years at Georgia Tech, I have been to many of these events. However, not until the readings last week did I truly take notice of the environment in which these readings are held. I’ll be honest, it’s not the most beautiful space, but its casual qualities make the Poetry events spontaneous and relaxed.

            It’s no Broadway Theater, and for those who live in Georgia, it is nothing close to the Fox. As I am sitting here, typing away this piece, I cannot recall the wall colors of the Museum or the carpet texture, the pattern on the material of the seats, or the height of the small stage in front. This tells me it is nothing special or glamorous; certainly it isn’t memorable. Nevertheless, I can tell you about the poems read the evening of April 3rd, and I am sure the poets would agree when I say, this is probably the point of a poetry reading.

            The seats were comfortable, at the least. I didn’t get up from my seat after the evening and rub my back trying to ease pain. I can recall that there are mini desks at each seat, and personally, I enjoy this, for it makes taking notes an easier task. I take notes in order to remember the topics of each poem, and I do this because it is a requirement for my Creative Writing course. In all sincerity, I detest the fact that I have to take notes, for I think it distracts me from the poems. However, surely the décor of the Museum doesn’t distract me, and this is also important to a poetry reading, I am sure.

            How elegant would a Poetry@Tech event be if it were to be held at the Fox Theater? One special event where everyone dressed up, including the poets, and cocktails were served in white-gloved men dressed in tuxedoes. Perhaps I should suggest this to the committee…. However, I wonder if the poets would enjoy such a setting? Do poets prefer calm soothing settings? Or would they enjoy a night filled with elegance and sheen. What does a poet consider to be a distraction? I am sure this answer differs for every poet; however, it’s an interesting question to survey.


What is Creativity?

 Today in my Creative Writing seminar, my professor proposed a question to my class that truly brought on silence. He asked, ‘what is creativity?’, and just like that, such a laid-back question brought us to our knees. In that moment I thought- I’m sure a second grader could answer this question flawlessly, and yet my twenty-year-old self was muzzled. Some know-it-all in my class piped up with sheer confidence- there is no such thing as creativity- and the whole classed booed and jeered… perhaps I was one of the loudest.

What is a creative work of art, a creative song, a creative style of education, a creative way to parent. What classifies something as creative? As the class concluded, and I walked with my friend to our next obligations, I couldn’t help but relive moments in my childhood when I had thought I had succeeded in designing a creative project, and suddenly this ‘creative project’ may have not been so original. My professor stated his opinion, and he said, “… nothing is unique. Everything that exists has stemmed from a past”, and although he made a valid point, it certainly sounded morbid.

I believe in the heart of sunshine. I refuse to accept a life without creativity. I cannot fathom that even minor things such as Power Points I have created in the past or poems I have generated had absolutely no sense of uniqueness. Furthermore, I will not acknowledge that special cards I have written for loved ones on their birthdays or gifts I have purposefully chosen to give my friends on the holidays had no sense of distinctiveness. How depressing would a world be if as individuals, we could not produce creative entities?

In my opinion, people can have creative last names, creative tattoos, and creative childhoods. Creativity is something unique, something you don’t see or observe often. The discussion occurring in my class had me really thrown off my equilibrium, because it truly resulted in the melancholic conclusion that only those who have invented a new device are creative. That cannot be accurate, and luckily this is a subjective clause… someone may have created this computer I am currently typing on, but no one has written this exact essay.

To the creative ones: stand up, because there are people in this world who are demeaning your unique thoughts and distinct actions. I don’t believe many things in life are insignificant, and surely if creativity didn’t exist, people wouldn’t be thrilled with new concepts such as Siri, lettuce-wrapped sandwiches, and the popular phrase amongst Georgia Tech students- dick-face. According to my professor, these wouldn’t be considered creative, for they stemmed from previous inventions. Nevertheless… creativity? Live on.

I am producing creative work every day.