Child of the Sun

22 Feb 2006

An interview with Toronto spoken word artist heronJones

Recently, local spoken word poet, activist, publisher and emcee heronJones officially added the title of author to his already impressive resume. His new book, I AM a Child of the SUN, was launched recently at a soulful event at Cervejaria restaurant on College Street. His flair for the dramatic and oratorical showmanship was evident throughout the night, but particularly poignant when, projecting his deep voice from the back of the room, he made a surprise entrance that seems to have caught event the event host off guard. On stage, he was joined by a drummer, and also occasionally by sultry singer Andrea Henry, to complement his mind-provoking poetic renditions.

AfroToronto.com had the chance to talk to heronJones recently about his new book and where things are headed for him.

I sensed a lot of deep introspection behind many of his poems and asked heronJones what inspires him to write poetry. “A lot of my inspiration comes from research that I do and the people that I deal with on a regular basis. … Usually the things that I take in go through me. They go through me like a filter and then they come out in my creative way.”

Expanding on this topic of self-introspection, I ask heronJones why he chose to use a picture of himself as a child for his book cover. “I used to have a lot of anger as a child” he responds. In fact, the Toronto-native interestingly points out the he seems to share that experience with many people born in the Caribbean. Their childhood pictures often exude a sense of anger. “I think these kids have an idea that there’s something going wrong in the world. It’s not right and they can feel it. They can sense it. So that’s one of the reasons why I chose that picture.”

Having come into the world in the area of Jane & Finch, and having spent his formative years in Brampton where he still resides, I ask heronJones how he sees this city’s spoken word scene’s evolution and overall direction over the years. He answers: “I think the scene’s been growing very rapidly over the past couple of years. There’s a lot of great artists. Not everyone is ready to perform but there are a lot of people that I meet on a regular basis who like poetry, who are singers or whatever else -- more bedroom artists. So we definitely have a lot of talent in this city. It’s just that I think the one thing that’s lacking is our network. We really don’t have a solid industry. I see we’re going in the right direction.” He definitely sees some light at the end of the tunnel. He sees the likes of Dwayne Morgan, Dbi Young and those who are currently at the forefront of the Toronto spoken word scene as being the ones with the mandate to lay the groundwork to continue to grow and build the industry for younger people coming up.

Recalling his own early days as an evolving poet, heronJones says that he wrote from a very young age. “I used to write short stories and rap lyrics. So kind of from writing rhymes, it manifested over the years to spoken word poetry.” He had found a way to express myself and grew more and more confident as the years went by. Jones joined the spoken word circuit in the year 2000. So what is your true love, I ask him, slams or open mics? “I really love slams. I love slams just because of the competitive aspect of it. Just like any sports event, it’s got to be high intensity. I love to compete. I used to play basketball and now I use that energy I used in playing basketball and pour it into slam poetry. That’s where I get to compete. But Open mics still have their place and I still have a love for that because that’s where I started. I started doing open mics before I started doing any slams. It still has an intimate place in my heart.”

So what’s next for the newly minted author heronJones? Sounds like he’s just getting started. He is currently in the midst of preparing a tour which should take him to as many Canadian and American cities as possible. Having performed in New York and Detroit, among others, in the past, he looks forward to his upcoming tour taking him to those places again and also to Philadelphia. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about Philly” he says. He would also love to be able to perform in L.A. and Las Vegas.

This exciting period has been long in the making for heronJones. Having been in the spoken word circuit for the past six years, which have also seen the publishing of three CDs, and the creation of a vital web-resource for Toronto’s spoken word scene with his website www.poeticsoul.ca, heronJones says that his new book I AM a Child of the SUN has “been a baby just getting ready to be born.”

After three years in existence, his website, www.poeticsoul.ca has likewise continued to evolve. As heronJones points out: “First the vision (for the website) was to showcase or highlight the work of poet artists from the Toronto area. To let the audience know that there is a spoken word scene.” The site keeps visitors informed about poetry events around the city. Speaking of the site’s evolution over the years, Jones continues: “Now we’ve become more of a literary journal where we publish the work of upcoming authors, short stories, poetry, ballads and lyrics. … We’ve even put together a couple of contests where we’ve offered a prize of $500 to the best poem.” Through www.poeticsoul.ca, heronJones looks to put together a full publishing company that will focus on spoken word artists and providing a forum for mainly young black artists.

Jones doesn’t plan on resting on his laurels following the publication of his first book. He is currently at work on several other books! “The main thing right now is preparing for the tour. But I’ve been very busy. I’ve got 4 or 5 books ready to go.” One of his upcoming book projects, due to come out in 2007, is the chronicling of the “R.O.M. Eleven.” He will document the brave actions of Toronto civil rights pioneers and elders who took on the Royal Ontario Museum in 1990 in protest of their racist “Into the Heart of Africa” exhibition. He’s also got some non-fiction stuff in the works dealing with religion from a secular perspective -- tackling the concept of exemplifying one’s “Christ within” by living faith everyday.

You can find heronJones’ book, I AM a Child of the SUN, at A Different Booklist and Knowledge Bookstore. It is also available online at www.poeticsoul.ca. Watch for it soon too on Amazon.


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