His­tory, Ac­cord­ing to Boys: Saeed Jones

Saeed Jones on the Past, Po­etry, and Leav­ing Home

Hello Mr. Magazine - - CONTENTS - Francisco Ti­rado

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.

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