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Birmingham’s Ashley Jones Named Alabama’s First Black Poet Laureate

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Ashley Jones has published two award-winning poetry collections -- Magic City Gospel and Dark//Thing -- and her third book of poetry, Reparations Now!, will be released September 7 by Hub City Press. (Photo via O’Neal Library)

By Javacia Harris Bowser

For The Birmingham Times

Ashley M. Jones, founder of the Magic City Poetry Festival, has been named the next Poet Laureate for Alabama, making her the first Black Poet Laureate for the state and the youngest person to hold the position.

Jones, 31, was tapped for the role Sunday, August 22 at the Alabama Writers Cooperative’s annual conference. The Poet Laureate of Alabama is a four-year term during which the selected poet serves as an ambassador of poetry for the state.

“When I was a little girl growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, I made a plan for my life as a poet, and part of that plan–a big, big dream–was to serve as Alabama State Poet Laureate,” Jones said in a statement released by Magic City Poetry Festival announcing her appointment. “I’m so honored to serve my home state as an ambassador, advocate, and as a lover of poetry and all the people who write it, read it, and find new magic from it in this life.

Jones’s duties as poet laurate include making appearances at Alabama schools, universities, libraries and other state institutions, as well as giving lectures, reading poetry and holding workshops both locally and nationally. The position was created in 1930.

The outgoing Poet Laureate is Jennifer Horne.

In the coming weeks, Jones will attend the commissioning ceremony for the role at the state capitol.

“I have dedicated my life so far to making poetry accessible to all, to celebrating everyone’s voice, and working to eliminate gatekeeping in our industry,” Jones said. “I’m so excited to spend the next four years helping to make Alabama poets and poetry radiate here at home and beyond.”

Being Alabama’s poetry ambassador and advocate will be added to Jones’ already long list of accomplishments. She has published two award-winning poetry collections — Magic City Gospel and Dark//Thing — and her third book of poetry, Reparations Now!, will be released September 7 by Hub City Press. Jones was a guest editor of Poetry Magazine for this year’s May, June and July/August issues. Jones also serves as a member of the creative writing faculty at the Alabama School of Fine Arts and in the low residency MFA program at Converse College.