JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Jazz The Poet, author of Petals & Pebbles
Petals & Pebbles is a string of poetic pearls, each poem possessing an opulence of its own. As petals and pebbles emanate from the beauty of the natural world, these pearls of wisdom emanate from the beauty of one womanâ€™s soul. Universally, they adorn womanhood across any imaginable divide.
Before I dive into the profound, well-thought out questions that you have presented, allow me to express my sincere, heartfelt, overwhelming gratitude for the wonderful tribute you paid to Petals & Pebbles in your August 2, 2010 book review. It was far more than I had ever expected when I handed you my book for perusal.
The 5-star rating and accolades you provided are most appreciated, and your use of alliteration and the poetic tone is astounding. You are an awesome writer. It was assuring to receive this critique by someone with such literal tenacity. Thank you very much.
~ Jazz The Poet
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the idea and inspiration to write Petals & Pebbles?
Jazz The Poet: Petals & Pebbles reflects the dichotomy of my life. Much of its content was derived from an extensive span of introspect in search of personal healing. Writing from self-examination and self-analysis is very therapeutic. The book, itself, came about after I recited â€œA Dedication for Pioneersâ€, a poem I wrote for my father and read at his funeral service, to my beloved friend, Claudia Moss.
Over the years, Claudia (a consummate writer), consistently offered accolades about by writing and often told me that I needed to do something with it. After she heard the poem, she exclaimed, in a tone as if God were speaking himself, â€œJaslyn, you have to stop hiding your light, you must share it!â€ She then invited me to participate in a spoken-word event that she was co-hosting in Atlanta, Georgia.
Of course, I accepted. When I shared this exciting news with my sisters, one of them said, â€œSister Jaslyn, if you go to Atlanta to perform, they will want to know how to get in touch with you. You are going to need a profile or something.” It has always been difficult for me to write a profile about myself, so I decided at that moment, I would do one better. I asserted within, “Iâ€™ll put a book together and present it during my performance.”
Even though Iâ€™d been writing since I was a teen, I never valued my work. I would write poems and give them away. As a result, when I started Petals & Pebbles, I only had four poems in my repertoire. I didnâ€™t allow that to be a deterrent. There was so much inside of me that had been marinating.
With a strong internal volition and I believe my dadâ€™s spirit backing me, I wrote profusely and completed the book in three weeks. Petals & Pebbles was a wonderful birthday gift. I completed my book August 25, 2007, and I performed in the Atlanta spoken-word event that following Labor Day weekend.
JP: Petals & Pebbles is more than a bunch of poetic fluff. Youâ€™re actually making bold statements. What poets or even experiences have you drawn from to nurture your bold style as a poet?
Jazz: This question, I absolutely love. When you speak of bold, I am going to answer this question from the perspective of bold meaning daring and fearless. There is a quote by a very wise man whose name is Freddie X Thomas that serves as the basis of my posture as a poet/writer: â€œThere is no religion higher than truth. It is not true because I say so, however, I say so because it is true.â€
From my vantage point, I am not being bold, simply being â€œJazzâ€. It has been instilled in my brain to speak the truth regardless of whom or what. Jesus said, â€œYe shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.â€ I feel I indeed have been freed by the Son.
The Life Giving Teachings of The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad has taught me the knowledge of self and the knowledge of God. God is the only reality, and He alone am I to fear, which makes my bold style as a poet effortless. As long as I can remember, I read about the pain and suffering of my people. Iâ€™ve internalized our history to a point where, at times, I feel the spirit of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Sarah Bartman, and/or Queen Nzingha walking with me.
Injustice and oppression affect me deeply. However, knowing and sharing the truth does not come without a price. I have suffered much persecution by those who fear the truth and desire to keep my people in mental slavery. To expound on the levels and means of persecution that Iâ€™ve been and continue to be subjected to would be a whole other bookâ€¦perhaps in the future.
As far as poets go, Sonia Sanchez is my favorite poet and would say the most influential. In my humble opinion, she, more than most, has an extremely sincere, authentic writing style. Itâ€™s so inspiring; it tantalizes all of my senses. It makes me breathe.
Langston Hughes stands out because of the extent of his work, and I adore the way â€œSimpleâ€ expressed himself fearlessly. There are three poems that stand out in my mind that Iâ€™ve used when teaching elocution to young people. The messages are very affirmative. (1) â€œWho Can Be Born Black” by Mari Evans, (2) â€œDo Not Thinkâ€ by Carol Freeman and (3) â€œWhen I Know the Power of My Black Handâ€ by Lance Jeffers. Realizing that self-preservation is the first law of nature, I have a natural affinity towards works that reflect and encourage positive thoughts and affirmation towards black people.
Self-hatred has been bred into black people and must be uprooted. On that note, Iâ€™ll conclude this question with another quote by Freddie X Thomas, which also supports my posture as a poet/writer: â€œI am 1000% black. I make absolutely no apologies for being so, without being one iota anti anybody else.â€
JP: You are a Muslim woman, and your poetry reflects that and much more. What has been the reaction to Petals & Pebbles by Christians and other non-Muslims?
Jazz: Poetry is an art, and art is universal. I believe, based on the reactions that Iâ€™ve received from my Christian family and other non-Muslims, that God is using me as a vessel to demonstrate the Oneness of God. It is interesting that the preceding question inquired about my â€œboldâ€ style as a poet.
The very first exchange I had happened the day after the 2007 Labor Day weekend spoken word event. I had just completed a trial recording of my signature poem, â€œWoman of Godâ€. The producer had left the CD playing so that I could hear what my studio voice sounded like. Just as it begun, a woman carrying a Bible came in the studio with her daughter, a songstress.
While waiting for her studio time, they both listened to my poem. After it ended, the woman, who Iâ€™d learned was a Pentecostal Apostle, immediately took my hand and started praying: â€œFather God, thank you for this daughter. Open up the gateways and give her everything she needs to do your workâ€¦â€
The prayer lasted or about 5 minutes with tears strolling down my face. It was beautiful. I was in Muslim garb, and that was not a hindrance to this wonderful woman of God. She picked up my book then asked me, â€œIs this your book?â€ â€œYes,” I said. She then asked me the cost and told me that that one was hers. She asked me to autograph it. I did.
When I signed my pen name â€œJazzâ€, she asked me if that was my real name. I told her that my birth name is Jaslyn, and then she asked me what my last name was. When I told her Muhammad, she asked me to put Jaslyn Muhammad in her book, with my contact information. I did.
Then she hugged me and hugged me some more. That was the first of many Christian warriors who after seeing me perform, come to me and start praying for me. Theyâ€™ve prayed for my protection. Theyâ€™ve prayed for my success. Theyâ€™ve prayed for my prosperity. Theyâ€™ve prayed for me to be able to continue to share.
And on the flip side, I have encountered Christians with a myopic position, just from seeing Allah or Minister Farrakhanâ€™s name in my book; have given the book back to me. The overall embrace, however, has been great. Having been invited to share my gift with so many different diverse atmospheres is truly an honor, and I believe my universal family receives my genuine love.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take to start and finish Petals & Pebbles?
Jazz: I classify myself as a didactic poet, so it is important that my poems reflect some form of lesson, message or moral. Usually, when writing, I will write my thoughts out with pen and pad. Not owning a computer, I would then to the library and type my thoughts, save them to a flash drive, then print them so that I can see what is going on in my head in typed-written form.
Then I will read my work aloud, looking at and listening for any necessary improvements. Most times, Iâ€™ll vie my works off my friend Claudia, who has a keen, objective, professional ear; whom I trust as well as respect. She never tries to censure anything that I write; however, she is a certified editor.
It is important for me to write something every day, whether itâ€™s a poem, a letter, a prayer or just plain old journaling. Most of my writing is rooted in actual experiences about me, my family, society or my people. If God brings something to my spirit, Iâ€™ll write about it. If something happens that has ill-effected my spirit, Iâ€™ll write about it as therapy. I write what I feel when I feel it.
Once Iâ€™ve amassed a significant amount of poems, Iâ€™ll categorize them. This makes it easier to put them in book form. This is when the creative juices really start flowing, thinking of titles and subtitles for my poems and sections in my books. It is important to me that everything gels with as you say â€œrhyme and reasonâ€. I may put my project down for a while then come back, revisit a poem or a decision Iâ€˜ve made about a particular work and see if my spirit is still content.
The bottom line is that my spirit has to be at peace with my writing. Two of the initial poems, â€œRIGHTEOUS WOMENâ€ and â€œRemembranceâ€ included in Pebbles & Pebbles were written in 2003, the other two, â€œAnd Her Light Shinethâ€ and â€œA Dedication for Pioneersâ€ were written in 2006 and 2007. The others were written within a two-week span. Technically, I began Petals & Pebbles March 2003 and completed it August 2007.
JP: Whatâ€™s next for Jazz?
Jazz: Currently, I am in the process of putting together two books consecutively. The overall purpose of my writing is to change the frequency. There is far too much focus on sex in our society, and it is my hope to help us to move from the crotch and bring it up a notch. Thus, the title of my upcoming book will be â€œStepintomeanewfrequencyâ€.
The other book is a book of love poems exclusively, and its tile is â€œLove Linksâ€. Both books are complete as far as content goes, just working on the logistics of getting them published. I intend to continue with my performing and motivational speaking, with a focus on womenâ€™s empowerment.
Women are going to be the vehicle used to change the overall make-up of society. We need to be continuously nurtured and encouraged. I ask God to use me as a vessel to assist in this revolutionary uplift with the sound of my voice and the tip of my pen.
Facebook: look up Jazz The Poet