Today we’d like to introduce you to Jackson Neal.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Currently, I serve as Houston’s Youth Poet Laureate an initiative run by Writers In The Schools (WITS), Houston Public Library, and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. I use writing and art as ways to create new platforms for young voices in the city. When I started writing, I was a sophomore in high school — nothing major, just little notes here and there. By coincidence I stumbled across a poetry slam for young writers called Space City Slam Series, hosted by WITS, and the rest is kind of history. My performance at the slam was a mess to be perfectly honest. I didn’t know the rules, I didn’t have enough poems, I went over time, and I loved every second of it. When I was coming off stage from my ridiculously long poem, this girl I didn’t know ran up and hugged me. I think about that moment a lot. It seems so fitting, to inaugurate my first poem with an embrace. It felt as if she was saying, welcome home. That girl turned out to be Rukmini Kalamangalam, the previous Houston Youth Poet Laureate, and one of my dearest friends. I went on to join Meta-Four Houston, the city’s premier youth poetry slam team, hosted by WITS. Every summer for the past three years, I spent five days a week at the WITS Meeting House writing, editing, memorizing, and choreographing poems with other incredible young poets. Poetry became a very familial experience for me on account of those summers. It offered a place to gather, and a place to be held. As I continue to perform and travel, I carry that sense of home with me. I can feel all the poets I’ve worked with and the mentors that have guided me in the room when I’m writing. I see them in front of me when I perform. I think in many ways I’m still returning to my first slam. Each time I come off stage I know that I’ve been heard and that I’m being held.
Please tell us about your art.
I’m a poet primarily, but that manifests itself in a lot of different ways. When I started out, most of my work was poetry that existed only in performance. I’m drawn to the sacrament of the oral tradition, that act of gathering to hear and tell stories. The way that live performance brings people together is so electrifying— to feel everyone’s energy in the air. It’s that feeling of electric intimacy that I try to summon in my work. Recently I’ve also been publishing essays and dabbling in multimedia visual poems: poems with pictures, weird forms,3D materials. One of my recent projects involves sewing through the paper on which the poem is printed. I’m a firm believer that poetry is an experience more so than an object, and I want to push the form and genre to match that belief. A lot of my work revolves around questions of the queer experience and the queer body. I think, in a way, that’s why I’ve been moving away from traditional mediums as well. I want my work in its message and medium to make a departure from coercive structures such as the compulsory hetero/cisnormative which genre can sometimes reinforce.
Do you have any advice for other artists? Any lessons you wished you learned earlier?
Experience as much art as possible. Any and all genres. For writers, read everything you can get your hands on poetry, essays, fiction, comic books, plays. My process involves looking at a lot of visuals as well. All artists can learn from each other and summon new inspiration. Who knows, you might like it so much you pick up a new craft.
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
You can find all my recent publications and performances on my website, jacksonnealpoetry.tk. I also offer workshops and teaching services. To book a performance, workshop, or commission a poem check out my website or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach out to me on social media. My twitter and Instagram handles are both @jaxnealpoetry
- Website: jacksonnealpoetry.tk
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @jaxnealpoetry
- Twitter: @jaxnealpoetry
Shaelyn Neal, Pin Lim, Adam Mac, Rebekkah LaBlue