Popular Canadian poet and poetry slam champion Jamaal Jackson was in the Capital to inaugurate the first-ever Delhi slam event. A poet since birth, Jamaal has been talking about his private life in public for decades now. Sangeeta Yadav catches up with this colourful personality about his idea about poetry and what changed his life for the better
I want to go back to the days when there was nothing in our pockets. The days when I had no keys on chains linked to bracelets or wallets The days when I carried no post its, gadgets, misplaced trinkets or lockets The days when I would never begin a crazed search for some obscured item I believed to be deathly important at the time and by the time I found it I realised how much time I wasted and how time spent wisely defines our progress”
— Canadian poet Jamaal Jackson Rogers aka Just Jamaal recites these excerpts from his poetry titled Pockets which gives a sneak-peek into his childhood days filled with love, innocent desires and family issues.
The poetry bug bit him at the age of eight when he penned his feelings for a girl on the Valentine’s Day. “I decided to be a poet when I had my first crush but that girl broke my heart. I was in Class 5th at that time and I gifted the girl of my dreams excepts from my poetry in a Valentine Box. She ripped apart my poem. I was heartbroken and stopped writing since then.
But when I went to High School, I wrote another poem for another girl and she liked it. That encouraged me to keep going,” Jamaal recalls, adding that during his university days in Canada, he participated for the first time in poetry slam and since then there was no looking back.
Only recently, the Delhi Poetry Slam society conducted a special session where Just Jamaal was the performer of the day along with others. He opened the session for the amateur poets. For Jamaal, poetry was a life-changing experience.
“It empowered me to say things which I would not have said to others. Everybody goes through pain but not many gather the strength to share it with anybody. So, I decided that I’m going to write exactly what’s on my mind and be honest about it. Poetry takes away all my anger and sadness. That’s what it does to everybody,” he tells you.
Talking about his tough childhood days, he says: “My mother had schizophrenia and was living in a mental asylum. I didn’t know that I had a mother until I was grown up. My father was abused when he was a child and had childhood trauma and psychosis. He got into drugs and neglected me and my siblings. I was also abused as a child. It was tough coming to understand some of the things that were happening to me at such a young age. When my older brother moved out, I had to take care of everybody,” he says.
Things changed for the better when he ran away at the age of 17 and cut off all communication with family. During that phase, Jamaal wrote a lot of verses for his mother but unfortunately by the time the poems could reach her, his mother passed away.
“It was at the age of 19 when I visited her for the first time in the mental asylum. My dad used to say don’t go to see her. She is fine. But when I met her, I realised how broken she was. I never got a chance to spent time with her because I lived in a different city,” the slam champion, tells you about all the adversities he had to face.
Another poem that is close to his heart is the one he wrote on suicide and depression. “The devil wears nothing is about the devil within us which is negativity, doubt and fear that makes us weak,” he says. Jamaal is also a certified kindergarten teacher and assists disabled people in various jobs but poetry is his passion.
It was marriage and parenthood that changed his outlook towards life completely. “Marriage helped me to regain myself. I learnt responsibility and started owning my body, myself and my existence. There is a fear in me of not being a good father or a husband. No longer it’s about me anymore,” he tells you.
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