Poetry Slam winner pursues poetic passion

Amelia Knopp, Staff Writer

Manhattan High senior KJ Jones loved reading poet Shel Silverstein’s works, including “The Giving Tree,” in his early childhood years. Now, Jones is pursuing his own passion of writing poetry, and was recently crowned the MHS Poetry Slam champion.

Jones says that he began writing poetry during his early years of high school. 

“My sophomore year, we got a project and we were forced to write poetry,” Jones said. “Everyone else hated it, but I loved it.”

Jones’ Poetry Slam piece, entitled “A Chapter Guide to 2020,” walks through the events of the trying year, from the pandemic to social justice movements and the elections. 

According to Jones, the final rendition of the poem was actually his third variation. The first two variations were in a typical poem format and in free verse. 

“The first two variations were more specifically about what [2020] was like from a personal perspective, but I tried to think broader in the third variation,” Jones said. 

“A Chapter Guide to 2020” was written in chapter-style formatting, with chapters called “The Beginning,” “The Revolution,” “Elections,” “The Finale and Moving Forward” and “To Be Determined.” 

Jones says that the writing process for the poem, originally intended for the Poetry Slam performance, began about a week before the deadline. 

“In forensics, we do this thing where you just throw words at paper just to see what sticks or what catches your eye,” Jones said. “So that’s how I went about it. I wrote little stanzas of each topic and tried to mess around with certain rhyme schemes.”

Jones experiments with a wide range of topics in his poetry, drawing inspiration from personal experiences and current events. He has dabbled in various styles of poetry, with different rhyme schemes and formats. 

Jones says he enjoys poetry because it is open to interpretation by the audience.

“I feel like I could have read that same poem to maybe a different age group or a different demographic, and they probably would have taken something different away from it,” Jones said.

Additionally, Jones says that he writes and edits his poetry based on what he would enjoy listening to in a poem. 

“I feel like since I’m my biggest critic, I know what I’m going to like,” Jones said. 

Jones plans to continue to pursue his passion of poetry after high school, and wants to start sharing his works more publicly. 

“I feel like this was the first year I went public with my poetry,” Jones said. “To see it so well received makes me happy, but also sad that I didn’t do it long enough.”