It’s not clear in my memory which love came first—writing or music—but the pair are inextricably linked in a creative process which layers like melody and harmony. My debut poetry collection, HOOD VACATIONS, was written almost entirely to the music that filled my childhood and young adulthood—from the albums Southern Comfort by The Crusaders to Pilgrim by Eric Clapton. There is a rhythm and cadence to these poems that I hope sticks with the reader, makes them wanna dance or try to climb the side of a building.
I write in one form or another every day, so for me “getting stuck” isn’t about not writing at all, but rather when my words fall flat or have no impact. When I find myself making the same quality of observation day in and day out, I know that it’s time to listen, and listen deeply, to music. Music makes my body and my emotions move. Sad, but can’t cry? The track “Enough to Be On Your Way” by James Taylor solves that for me. In the doldrums? “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” by James Brown will shake me out of ‘em. My other go-to musical artists include: A Tribe Called Quest; Erykah Badu; Regina Carter; John Coltrane; Miles Davis; Earth, Wind & Fire; Kaki King; Fela Kuti; Andy McKee; Charles Mingus; Jill Scott; Snarky Puppy; Tower of Power.
Music will draw any emotion out of me and sprawl it onto a canvas or page. Writing will answer questions I’m afraid to ask, then come up with eleven more. In unison, there’s nothing they cannot heal.
—Michal ‘MJ’ Jones, author of HOOD VACATIONS (Black Lawrence Press, 2023)