JON GOODE is all about experiences. He pulls from his life for his work, and because of that, has gained fans across the globe. We sat down with the EMMY winner (!!!) to talk about everything from his experience on Verses & Flow to the importance of keeping things simple.
LA: Working with and around television is nothing new for you. You were nominated for an EMMY. Congrats. What was the nomination for and what was your reaction when you found out?
JG: The nomination was for a piece I did in conjunction with TVLand/Nick @ Nite entitled "To Me…" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PhwSSvrfZM). I was stunned by the nomination for two reasons. The first was that I didn’t even know the poem was up for consideration. Had I known, I’d have called my mother and let the chain reaction of calls she was going to make to inform the continental United States begin much earlier. The second reason I was taken so by surprise by the nomination was because that particular piece spoke out so directly against the negative stereotypes and images of African Americans that proliferate and are propagated in mainstream media both yesterday and today.
When I initially submitted the piece to Nick@Nite, I thought there was no way they were going to accept that piece of work. It was edgy, it was controversial and this was very nice, very proper TVland/Nick@Nite. This is the station that my mom watches, that shows re-runs of The Honeymooners. They aren’t going to let me say something so accusatory… or so I thought. It was a testament to the vision and direction of Deva Newman, Chelsea Most and Shakira Petterson that the piece ever saw the light of day and then went on to be nominated for television's highest honor.
Your poems are clearly from your past experiences, encouraging the audience to reminisce. Is that something you consciously do to engage the audience? What is generally the feedback you receive with those types of poems?
In general, I pull from my life for my work. Some poets really get into Jupiter, Mars, Sirius B, etc. and God bless ‘em, but in my mind, my audience consists of the people riding the #15 bus down Candler Road in Decatur, GA. If I write a poem that the people on the #15 can’t hear, understand and connect with in some way, then I’ve probably written it wrong. I don’t think poetry is meant to exist in an ivory tower where the everyday citizen can’t see, hear nor access it. In my opinion it’s meant to be ground level, eye and ear level, and offered to all.
So, with that in mind, I pull from things I’ve experienced. Within the patchwork that is our everyday lives lay a treasure trove of experience to weave into poetry’s quilt. It is also my fundamental belief that people’s lives are not as dissimilar as they may believe them to be. In the course of telling you my story we soon discover that I am also telling you your story; and your story has a lot in common with the folks on the #15, believe it or not. The feedback I receive ranges from handshakes, to smiles, to hugs, to tears. People usually see themselves or someone they know in the poems, and if not, then it’s still a good story with a life lesson that any and everyone can appreciate and enjoy.
What's one experience that you've gone through (good or bad) that you haven't been able to share as a poem?
To be honest with you, there is little to nothing that I can’t or won’t say in a poem. Our brightest moments light the way for someone else and our darkest hours tell the tale of perseverance and lets others know that they can endure, survive and thrive as well. Within the context of poems, I’ve discussed my father’s passing, his issues with alcohol, the teachings given to me by my mother and great grandmother, playing on the playground as a kid, running for my life in Decatur as an adult, love, loss, forgiveness, anger, triumph, tragedy, God, sin... it all makes its way into the writing.
Your poem "If You Should Ever Need It" was all about that crush that went awry as the years passed. And I also noticed that it was labeled as Part One. What happens in the parts after that one?
"If You Should Ever Need It" is a three part poem. I was trying to have people take this roller coaster ride of emotion with me. Part one is about a fifth grade crush, and it has elements of humor in it. The poem is light, it’s funny, but it has something to say about love, time and human interpersonal interaction. Part Two is about a guy I grew up with that lives on the streets of Richmond, Virginia as a homeless transient. The mood of part two is much heavier, it’s more reflective and explores the theme of being your brother’s keeper even when that means keeping him away--as best you can-- from certain harmful things he desires.
Part Three is about recognizing what it is that you need. Often, in our quest to don the cape and save the world, we neglect our own needs and fall into disrepair, be it physically, mentally or emotionally. Part Three finds me leaning on the relationship between me and my mother and showing how over the years she’s been able to undergird me when I’ve felt myself falling. Hopefully, the poem illustrates and illuminates the fact that everyone has or needs someone like that in their life; someone to blow wind in their sales when they’ve run out of steam. It's meant to be somewhat inspirational. So the goal was to go from laughter to contemplation to inspiration.
If you could only use one word to describe your experience on Verses & Flow, what would it be? Why?
Gilded. Daune Cummings and all of the good folks at Lexus, Walton Isaacson and TVOne worked really hard to make the experience golden.
Stay tuned right here at luxuryawaits.com for more interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and web-exclusive videos from the talented poets of "Verses & Flow" in the coming weeks.