Ask a Poet: Jasmine Mans

This fall, we’re hosting a High School Regional Mini-Festival at the Paul Robeson Center in Newark. Through readings and performances, Q&As and discussions, a group of poets will engage with hundreds of Newark high school students over the course of one school day in October.

For the next several weeks, we will be featuring short Q&As with some of the participating poets on the Dodge Blog each Friday. This week, we’re talking to Jasmine Mans.

In 2012, Jasmine Mans was chosen by Glamour Magazine, as one of their Top 10 Most Influential Woman in College. Later, Lyon Magazine would call Jasmine “Your New Favorite Poet on the Internet.” Blavity, Saint Heron, and Billboard would cover Mans’ poetry, all commenting on the intensity and honesty safe guarding her work. Jasmine has also successfully competed in HBO’s Russell Simmons Presents Brave New Voice and Knicks Poetry Slam competitions. Jasmine has opened for artists such as Goapele, Mos Def, and Janelle Monae. Her work has appeared alongside other artists such as NoMalice of Clipse and Pharrell. Her artistry has brought her to theatres and stages including the Kennedy Center, Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theater, the Wisconsin Governor’s Mansion and the Sundance Film Festival, amongst others. In 2016, Mans opened up for group Disbatch before 30,000 fans in Madison Square Garden. Jasmine Mans is a classically trained poet and orator whose toured London, Manchester, and, of course, the United States of America.

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Mans Author PhotoWhat is something you have recently discovered about poetry?

I recently discovered that poetry can live in many spaces. Poetry should not be confined to just the page. It belongs on billboards, bodies, on the ground, etc. I am learning every day, and asking myself, “In which ways do I want my work, my poetry, to take up space?” I recently discovered that my poetry is allowed to take up space, once I allow myself to.

Have you ever written anything you were afraid to share?

Most of the poetry that I write, I am afraid to share. We are all worried that we will be misunderstood. And, moreover, we are worried that our truth will hurt the people we love.

However, the state of being “afraid” only speaks to a premature stage of growth. May I mention, after “fear” comes possibility, exploration, and chance.

I’m often afraid of writing about my family. I am often scared of making the people who love me unconditionally look “flawed.”

But then, I think, the most valuable question is: what do we owe fear and what do we owe truth?

Do you have any advice for those who are trying to help students engage in poetry?

Yes, my advice for those who are trying to help students engage in poetry is:

Vulnerability: Poetry begins with honesty.

Storytelling: At its core, poetry is simply storytelling. It is important to invest in how students already use their voice and tell their story. It is important to empower the language that’s true to their “literary voice,” and to shift the language that doesn’t channel their true intention.

Identity: Personal identity will always be important to the poet. Who or what is the reader identifying with?

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading The Underground Railroad, a novel by Colson Whitehead.

Do you have a favorite memory of time spent in Newark?

I grew up in Newark. I would say that most of my valued memories were cultivated here. I attended Arts High School. I thank Arts High for my creative palette. It was during my time there that I discovered, subconsciously, my love for sound, dance, and poetry. That high school gave me access to an idea of talent that was surreal, yet ever so possible. Arts High taught me that you don’t have to be rich to gain a wealth of talent.

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