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Welcome, Michal ‘MJ’ Jones!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired over the past twelve months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you Michal ‘MJ’ Jones, whose poetry collection HOOD VACATIONS is due out in early 2023.

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our June Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies), anthology proposals, and translations from German. 

 

 

The Author

Michal ‘MJ’ Jones is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet & parent in Richmond, CA. Their poems have appeared in Anomaly, Kissing Dynamite, TriQuarterly Review, & wildness. Often addressing the troubling and haunting aspects of life, violence, and identity, MJ’s work blends the lyrical, documentary, and confessional modes. MJ serves as the Editor-In-Chief of Foglifter Press, a premier journal publishing trans and queer writers. They have received fellowships from Lambda Literary, Hurston/Wright Foundation, VONA/Voices, & Kearny Street Workshop. They received their MFA in Creative Writing – Poetry from Mills College, where they received the distinguished Community Engagement Fellowship. They founded & currently facilitate Litany!, a monthly workshop for a cohort of Black queer poets. Their debut poetry collection HOOD VACATIONS is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2023, and they are hard at work on their second collection!

 

 

 

On Writing HOOD VACATIONS

HOOD VACATIONS was prompted by magic and music, by the birth of my son, by police killings and protests, by a childhood spent in transit. The book opens with a bittersweet and nostalgic reminiscing of my younger years, and I wrote almost all of those poems while listening to music my father would play us on long road trips. Those songs brought back the feelings, scents, and sights of those moments–all of which I saw more clearly as an adult. Music is in the rhythm of the lines and the lilt of the lyric here. It’s inseparable from the writing of this book. For example, the album Southern Comfort by The Crusaders was on repeat.

In churning out these poems, I thought about the many ways in which my familial and ancestral legacy was about dreaming of escape–escape from the horrors of racism and then eventually from Blackness itself through attempts at assimilation. I thought about the ways we’ve been taught to vacate ourselves–our Blackness, transness, queerness, etc. and wanted to write toward a refusal to do so. The places, spaces, and people we come from are etched into us–they cannot be left.

 


Excerpts

 

Gone
after Arisa White

We believe we are scarce. We believe
unknowing. I wake unafraid embracing – you
have seen the silver screen fall. We fight, are
star-gazing its might, race into dusk the
arid space. Gave it my best shot at most
disgruntled shrug at least. We were mighty beautiful
once, in golden dust. I rub this love a sacred thing,
penance for our despair. I believe we are scarce, that
we sum up holes in the whole of what happened.

 

 

 

Turnstiles

When I came here / lifted from mother’s / abdomen like soil
I had enough lives / stockpiled to know / there is nothing to
the myth / getting it right / no matter how / many rotations we
spin and spin / til we’re sick dizzy / son & I / In centripetal orbit,
fleshy upright turnstiles / we scream a laughter / into ether like
prayer already answered / He’s exhausted bones / by nautical
twilight I gaze / between crib bars / brown skin / in deepening dusk
crest & trough / his dulcet breath / Oceans tide my looking / Perfection
my sins may deface / At star-rise ceremony / in blackness / I lift him
soft swift certain / of an un-caging / in my chest. Lay him / out just
a moment for apex / of breath / hummingbird heart / thrumming
against my life line / I could weep / at my own / capacity to hurt him &
hurt him again / Be the reason / he therapies / But for now I kiss
sweet sternum / massage soft tendrils / sprung from scalp
Stare into  ceaseless /                      forgiving night.

 

 


Unnamed

The baby arrived, 6 lbs 8 oz, 19 inches long.
Born at eight months, a little premature.
Got his shots, a 7 APGAR score,
but healthy. Ready for birth announcements.

The baby died, 150 lbs, 72 inches long.
Aged nineteen years, a little premature.
Got his shots, all 22 of them ripping his flesh,
until his life’s contents –
          sepia marrow,
          three pearled push-pins,
          a sandless hourglass,
          wallet-worn portrait of two daughters –
stained the sidewalk.

Supine body left to bake into the ground.
Contusions on his wrists where he was first tethered,
and on his back where the knee broke his spine,
but otherwise healthy.
No shots to the head or his tender face, so

He was casket pretty,

Ready for postcards