Oh how I love the South, especially the food. This past weekend I enjoyed celebrating the nuptials of one of my dear friends. While I was in Atlanta, I made certain to catch up with poet and author, Jon Goode. And he’s not just any poet. He’s an Emmy-nominated poet who has appeared on CNN’s Black in America among other successes. His literary debut, Conduit: A Collection of Poems and Short Stories, spent over twelve weeks as the #1 title in African American Poetry on Amazon. We sat down over some authentic Southern cuisine at the famous Big Daddy’s Dish to catch up:
1. First of all, these moments are always so surreal for me. Writers are so connected over social media. It’s a treat to meet a fellow author in person. I often talk about social media being the writer’s “village.” Have you found that to be true?
First let me say, thank you for reaching out! I’ve been a huge fan since reading The Truth About Awiti and so this is surreal for me also. Social media is an interesting, ever changing and complex beast. It is the best of things and it is the worst of things. I’ve certainly found various platforms to be places where you can find your people, your kin, your tribe, and absolutely places where you can find the complete opposite. As much as I’ve found poets, writers, musicians, music lovers and like-minded people I’ve certainly found a ton of the opposite. That’s the beauty of life though, is it not? The variety. The differing view points. It creates the rich tapestry that is life.
2. Your literary debut, Conduit, has received rave reviews (a solid five-star rating on Amazon, which is no easy feat). What inspired you to release your first collection?
I’ve been blessed to travel and perform on stages nationally and internationally since 1999. People have been kind and gracious enough to ask me about ways of accessing my work during almost the entirety of that span of time. Early on my audience wanted CD’s and videos. Later I was encouraged, especially by Jessica Care Moore, to release a book. I read a lot of contemporary poetry books (some awe-inspiring good; others bleach your eyes awful) and asked myself what would make mine stand out in a market that was suffering from no lack of content. Over the years while writing performance poetry I’d also been writing short stories and essays. I settled on the idea of not just releasing a book of poems but a collection of poems, short stories and essays. I wanted to give the reader some diversity in my offering; a symphony and not just one note. Thus, Conduit was born.
3. There’s definitely a movement occurring in the Black literary world. Our voices and stories are more important than ever, particularly works that give insight into the Black male experience. What messages do you hope to convey with your writing?
My hope in my writing is to run the gamut of our experiences and to show us as we are. We are on occasion our higher selves, at times our lower selves and more often than not somewhere in between. In my writings I don’t try to make us any holier or more base that what is true. We are human beings subject to all that comes with that. I point my pen at that truth and write what I see. That being said I think there are hidden gems wrapped up in the mundane. I believe there is a deeper truth hidden in the every day. So while not glossing over the story of us I do try to pull back the curtain and reveal the magic wrapped up in who we are.
4. Let’s talk about Conduit being the #1 title in African American poetry for over twelve weeks. Congratulations! Because it’s your first release, many people might think it’s luck or that you’re an overnight success. But you’ve been a part of the spoken word community for many years. Care to share a little about your journey?
I began my professional career as an accountant. Which is about as unpoetic as it gets. I had no interest in poetry at all. A friend of mine, Veronica Robinson, dragged me to an open mic one night back in 1999, much against my will (I think my direct quote to her was “I have NO interest in seeing people in sandals talk about their third eye in a room that smells like patchouli oil.”) It turned out to be one of the most transformative nights of my life. I was amazed at how those poets were able to weave this quilt of intrigue, history, bravado, compassion and excitement in three minutes using only their naked voice. I went home that night and started writing. I was blessed along the way to have extremely talented mentors and peers. Amazing poets and writers like Cola Rum, Chezon Jackson, Yohannes Sharriff, Starr Pickens, Q-Swon, Spinxx, Amir Sulaiman, Malik Salaam and many many others. We held each other accountable. We held each other to a high standard and we all honed our craft until it was razor sharp. As my name’s recognition in the world of performance poetry grew, wonderful opportunities opened up. I was afforded the chance to work with HBO Def Poetry, Nike, Nick @ Nite, TVLand, CNN, BET and TVOne to name a few. It’s been an amazing journey and God has walked with me every step of the way because many of the doors that have opened to me appeared to be brick walls at first glance.
5. And of course, the question that every reader wants to know – what are you working on next?
I’m working on SO MUCH! I love it. Front and center however is a novel entitled Khalas. Khalas is the story of Oscar November, a reservist and veteran of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Oscar is home from the war, now working at a department store and trying to figure out who he is and how to forge a way forward after having done and seen so much. It’s a story of rediscovering self, reconciling the past, looking toward the future, being a veteran, being an African American man, mental health, life and love. So as you can see, it’s a lot to discuss but (God willing!) I’ll give the readers something that will leave them better for having taken the journey with me.
6. Anything you’d like to share with fellow writers and readers?
I appreciate everyone who takes time out of their lives to read my words. I don’t take the time, attention and support for granted.
Great! Let’s eat!
We were in the South. At a restaurant named Big Daddy’s. Nuff said. It was delicious!