When Birmingham-bred poet Ashley Jones was in graduate school at Florida International University, she made a promise to herself: She promised herself that she would produce a book of poetry by the end of her MFA program. Jones kept her promise and on Friday, December 2 she will host a reading, book signing and early release party for her debut collection Magic City Gospel. The poems in the collection, which officially releases in January, are largely inspired by Jones’ experiences as a black girl and woman in the South. This special early release event will be held at 7 p.m., Friday, December 2 at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in downtown Birmingham.
Jones burst onto the poetry scene last year winning the prestigious Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award (a national literary award only given to six women each year that includes a grant for $30,000). Last year Jones also returned to Birmingham to teach creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA) and this year began teaching at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) as well.
But Jones believes poetry should be in the community and not just the classroom. She recently helped produce the 100,000 Poets for Change in Birmingham event to raise money for the Smithfield-Dynamite Hill Community Land Trust, which works to keep the Smithfield Community in the ownership of its residents and fight against gentrification. She’s also coordinator of The Nitty Gritty Magic City Reading Series. The brainchild of Alabama poets Katherine Webb and Daniel DeVaughn, NGMC seeks to create a unique literary space in Birmingham where people can tell their stories through their art.
In a candid conversation, Jones discusses Magic City Gospel, her writing practice, writing as a form of activism and more.
Whether you woke up this morning elated or devastated by last night’s election results, here is one thing I want us all to celebrate: See Jane Write member Jennifer Dome King has just released her first book, a book that grew from her blog. And I hope her story will inspire you to soon write a book of your own.
Imagine you are a black teenager attending a mostly white school and no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to fit in. Now imagine you pray to a higher power to change your race. And imagine that prayer is answered.
As a girl growing up in church, I always wanted to know more about Lot’s wife, the biblical character known only as the woman who was turned into a pillar of salt after she looked back at Sodom as it was being destroyed.
What was her name? Who was she before she was Lot’s wife? Why did she look back despite the instruction of angels to keep facing forward and moving ahead?
In her novel Angels at the Gate, local author T.K. Thorne imagines the answers to these questions and more. Thorne’s historical fiction spins the tale of Adira, who is secretly raised as a boy in her father’s caravan. As she grows older, Adira rejects womanhood as it threatens her independence and nomadic life. But the appearance of two mysterious strangers, rumored to be holy men or angels, changes everything.
With its detailed descriptions of desert life and in-depth character development,Angels at the Gate instantly drew me in. As I read about Adira’s treacherous quest to follow the “angels” I was a nervous wreck, worried about how she and her beloved dog, Nami, would survive the dangers of the desert and the perils of Sodom.
Angels at the Gate recently won the Gold Benjamin Franklin award, regarded as one of the highest national honors for small and independent publishers. When I read a book and love it, I often want to interview the author. This time, I did.