In the Scene's fourth annual People Issue, on stands now, we talk to Sebastian Jones, the East Nashville teen who's a rising star on the city's spoken-word performance-poetry scene. (Eric England's haunting photo alone is worth the click.) He's quick to name writers and poets he admires — Ralph Ellison, Ernest J. Gaines, famed slam poet Saul Williams — but claims few influences on his writing:
At 14, he got involved with the spoken-word project Youth Speaks Nashville (now SouthernWord.org), and became passionate about poetry. Starting in 11th grade, Jones spent his lunch hour every Friday at Hunters Lane High School running an open-mic show for budding performance poets.
"That used to be slam-packed," remembers Jones. Videos of his performances started appearing online, charting his development as he began to incorporate movement and shadow play into pieces as wrenching as "Danceless Mother" — a direct address to his mother, recorded just a month after her death in February 2011.
"The last time I seen my mother breathing," Jones recites in the piece, watching his shadow uncoil on the wall behind him, "she was hooked up to a machine keeping her alive."
For samples of his work, see the clip above from 2009, when Jones was still a Hunters Lane student, and the clip below, in tandem with fellow Nashville performance poet Rashad.