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.