History, According to Boys: Saeed Jones
Saeed Jones on the Past, Poetry, and Leaving Home
When you read the poems of Saeed Jones, you can’t help but try to imagine the type of speaking voice he might have. His poems have a distinct audibility. The concision of his line breaks and the jazz of his occasional rhyme. When you meet him in person, you find that the voice you’ve made up in your head matches his actual voice with startling accuracy: the low swings of a soul singer and the staccato conviction of someone who’s rehearsed a speech a hundred times.
Before he became the LGBT editor of Buzzfeed, Saeed was busy learning to be every kind of writer. He spent the bulk of his earlier years in New York going to readings and gaining traction in the intimate smallness of the NYC queer poetry scene. A performative and practiced poet, a seasoned essay writer, and a prolific tweeter, it was in coffeehouse readings and gay poetry salons where such a speaking voice is an asset you don’t take for granted. He had finished his graduate work at Rutgers and built a strong foundation for what came to be his forthcoming first book of poetry,
Prelude to Bruise, but it wasn’t quite done. His first year after that was spent in Jersey, teaching at a charter high school. Then his mother passed away.
“It felt a bit apocalyptic,” he says. “I was very close to my mom and not very close to the rest of my family members. It felt like my family had kind of disappeared, very suddenly.”
Memories in the South he had once thought distant were now hot and ready, waiting for him in an apartment in Harlem where he retreated to write some of the last poems in his book. Saeed was in elementary school when he and his mom moved from Memphis to Lewisville, a suburb of Dallas. Becoming something of a recluse, he was picking through the moments of his past with a fine-tooth comb. Saeed posted on his Tumblr once, “Writing about your memories means that you've agreed to lock yourself in a room with them.” And that’s exactly what he did.