Ponder Review, Fall 2019"straight people are the reason" (2019)
orignally published by Ponder Review
print pubs fast backwards, family crowds, and edible but ugly.pdf"fast backwards" (2019)
originally published in The Santa Clara Review
"family crowds around open oven" (2018)
originally published in Black Mountain Press
"edible, but ugly" (2015)
originally published in Amendment Journal
SYLVIA JONES is a writer, educator, and prison abolitionist. She earned her MFA from American University in Washington D.C., and recently served as a 2021-22 Stadler Fellow at Bucknell University. She’s associate poetry editor at Black Lawrence Press and works part-time teaching creative writing and composition at Goucher College and The George Washington University.… more
Online Publications and Artist Statement
Of all the generational curses I’m trying to break, it's the idea that black people deserve to be on the receiving end of violence. Deterioration is a difficult state to maintain dialogue through. Craft wise I’m attempting to demonstrate language as a burden. Memory, despite proof, is what these poems attempt to conjure. In doing so, it also sets a way for us to see time differently. It’s about the uncanny imaginative and historical toll of becoming locked into specific narratives. These poems reside in the generative space between discomfort and grief. Like Shane McCrae’s, In the Language of My Captor (2016), or Solmaz Sharif’s Look (2016), or Harryette Mullen’s, Sleeping with the Dictionary (2002). Upon being asked how she started writing, the novelist Gayl Jones replied, "I learned to write by listening to other people talk." While this is only half true for my own experiences, what I do know is that as human beings and storytellers the most vital resources we have are other people.
Public Readings (2022)
Windfall Room, Issue 36— Baltimore SeriesDora Malech reached out to me in the Fall of 2021 and asked if I'd be interested in working with the Windfall Room for their upcoming issue, I was so elated to be asked and very much enjoyed all the various situational challenges that came with this elaborate attempt to stage a good recitation. Each issue Windfall Room publishes a poet reciting one of their own works in a high-quality audio/video format. This is from their Baltimore Series, which focused on uplifting voices from people local to the greater Baltimore region. In the video I am Lakeside at Druid Hill Park. A heavy desire to merge fabulism with reverence is what bore this piece. More specifically, a quote from the Terrence Hayes poem "Snow for Wallace Stevens" which appears in his 2010 collection "Lighthead" (2010) "I too, having lost faith in language, have placed my faith in language"
The HOT L Poets Series June 12, 2022 at The Ivy BoookshopClip from a reading with fellow poet and local Baltimore writer Lindsay Bernal from June 12, 2022. The HOT L Poets Series is a reading series presented by Smartish Pace magazine and Baltimore Poets Theatre. Readings are held on the second Sunday of the month at The Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore and feature two or three poets along with an open mic.
"Guest Editor's Note" from Shenandoah —Volume 71, Number 2 (Spring 2022)
Volume 71, Number 2 · Spring 2022 Guest Editor’s Note
What is social duty to an identity? The poems I’ve selected for this issue strive to respond to this question and others. They are an eloquent argument against oversimplifying what it means to represent a community and shed light on poets’ responsibilities to their communities.
With rigorous pizzazz and a few sprinkles of discretion, these poems put in the work, and in doing so, they reveal how nimble the human spirit can be when struck with adversity in its many shapes—alienation, catastrophic loss, disappointment, and withholding.
As an exercise in technical wizardry, residing somewhere far beyond the shore of duplicitous intentions and traveling by way of distorted time, as if guided by a singularity of intention, they sweep en masse into a narratively restrained quarter-moon shape, leaving readers in the middle, scanning each collapsible pause, asking: Where does the desire to assimilate come from? Can a poem be a vehicle for psychic fraud? What does authority mean? How do you fact-check a poem? Can voice be a body cam? If so, how?
Like a quorum or a committee, or a column of names to be remembered. Or a tongue in your pocket, beneath a welcomed stain on your favorite pants. The speaker’s voice is not a reversible little painting, but it can be folded into many edges. These poems reverberate like the voice of a hero with a thousand faces. They will not be taken in by the commercially advertised mail-order coat-of-arms trade. Together they are hoping. Just a little. Not to uproot but to godsmack.
Every so often I jot down random words and phrases, as something to do with my hands while I listen and process the news. In note-taking, I’m also stocking up on idioms for my repository of well-kept lines, and in doing this, I’m gathering material and adding dimensionality to all those theoretical poems of the future, everything yet to be written. This issue too reminds me of that stacking. And of Roethke’s query: will the heart eat the heart?
"3 Poems" — Sprung Formal, Issue 18 (May 2023)
"4 Poems" — Amendment, Santa Clara Review, Black Mountain Press, & The LGBTQ Center of New York
1. "Family Crowds around Open Oven for Warmth" (Black Mountain Press, 2017)
- Audio file of a piece I wrote, entitled "Family crowds around an open oven for warmth. Harlem, New York, 1968." Here, I'm responding to a photographic work from Gordon Parks, which is where my poem also draws its title from.
2. "Fast Backwards" (Santa Clara Review, 2018)
- An audio recording of myself reciting "Fast Backwards" which is a poem split into two, half-ars poetica, half- ode, it's mostly a celebratory poem written out of tribute to two of my literary heroes Toi Derricotte and Charles Simic, whose work and life, I often looked to as a north star.
3. "Straight people are the reason I can't read" (Ponder Review, 2019)
- An audio recording of myself reciting "Straight People are the reason I can't read" which I wrote in memoriam to the many gay and queer people who were born in the early days of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic. The poem is meant to serve as a bridge between the canon and the continuum and hopefully uproots readers expectations in regards to the activism bore out out of the AIDS Movement, the speaker's voice functions with an honorable duplicit, demonstrating to readers the impact of storytelling / archivial work, for people and communities on the recieiving end of historical marginalization.
4. "Edible, but Ugly" (Amendment Journal, 2016)
- Poem uses a line from Malcolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet” is the title of a public speech by human rights activist Malcolm X which was delivered on April 3, 1964, at Cory Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio.
- Winner of the Amendment 2015 Literary Contest: Poetry Category
straight_people.mp3audio recording of "Straight people are the reason I can't read"
"Family Crowds around Open Oven for Warmth, Fontenelle Children, Harlem, New York, 1968"An audio recording of a poem I wrote in response to another artist's work (Ekphrasis) Here, I'm responding to a photographic work from Gordon Parks, entitled, "Family crowds around an open oven for warmth. Harlem, New York, 1968" which is where my poem also draws its title from.
"Fast Backwards"An audio recording of myself reciting "Fast Backwards" which is a poem split into two, half-ars poetica, half- ode, it's mostly a celebratory poem written out of tribute to two of my literary heroes Toi Derricotte and Charles Simic, whose work and life, I often looked to as a north star.
"1 Poem" — Capitol Letters (Spring 2023)
“Different Strokes/Different Folks: Queer Artists of Color Paint the 21st Century”
The Center closes out our month-long virtual Pride celebration with our annual Open House program. All are invited to learn about The Center and the work we do through a number of interactive activities. We’ll have community partner presentations, an artist’s panel discussion, and even a jazz concert by Uptown Royalty presented in partnership with the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. For more info and to view the online exhibit