What I Know: Tasha Jones

GIG: Poet and storyteller with a healing message. AGE: Only her mother knows.  SHOW STOPPER: On May 7, the stage diva, who opened for Lauryn Hill’s tour last year, will return as a crowd favorite at Spotlight, an AIDS benefit featuring some 300 artists who perform pro bono.

Life on the road isn’t glamorous, unless your idea of glamour is waking at 4 a.m. to practice your performance, dressing your kids at 6, writing until lunch, making phone calls all afternoon, then picking the kids up, cooking dinner, and sleeping for five hours.

When I was doing a Mary J. Blige commercial and appearing in Essence magazine, I was sleeping in my car.

I had to live through the tough times before I could live the good times.

Spotlight used one of my poems in a commercial. They liked it so much, they asked me to perform it.

I never know where the jobs will come from.

I don’t have much furniture in my front rooms, just my son Shalom’s drawings and my daughter Messiah’s writings. It’s important that they see their art as work that can be framed and observed.

Indianapolis got it right with its library.

Indian food reminds me of home. I can’t get enough of India Palace. The naan bread reminds me of my Tennessee grandmother’s flour bread that we used to sop up mango chutney.

Poetry is still vital. In every generation, it has been the poet, the actor, and the musician who have pushed the people’s needs to the forefront.

My favorite poet is Mari Evans. She’s a true Indianapolis treasure. What other poet would say, “I quote myself because I know the source”?

My look has to speak to who I am. My designer, Michael Bush, gets me and my love for high couture. Last year I had four other designers ask me to wear their dresses for Spotlight, but I’m loyal to Michael.

The poet Danny Simmons—his brother is Russell Simmons—once told me, “I love your work, but the elevator is broke, you have to take the stairs.” The path for poets is hard, but no one ever said it would be easy.

—as told to Terry Kirts

Photo by Tony Valainis

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue.

» Also: Our Q&A with reality TV personality Austin Armacost, an Indy native who attended Spotlight 2012.

» Bonus: IM‘s review of performances at the 2012 Spotlight show.

A graduate of IU’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, Terry Kirts hails from a town in Illinois so small it didn’t have a restaurant until he was in the 8th grade. Since 2000, he’s more than made up for the dearth of eateries in his childhood, logging hundreds of meals as the dining critic for WHERE Indianapolis, Indianapolis Woman, and NUVO before joining Indianapolis Monthly as a contributing editor in 2007. A senior lecturer in creative writing at IUPUI, Terry has published his poetry and creative nonfiction in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including Gastronomica, Alimentum, and Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana, and he’s the author of the poetry collection To the Refrigerator Gods, published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2011.