Our Voices

Creating Space for Her Passion Paves the Way for Growth

Tish Jones B Fresh PhotographyLife in spoken word

Spoken Word, a cultural movement of performance-based poetry, has been a part of Tish Jones’ upbringing since the beginning. But it wasn’t until she wrote a poem for a training workshop she attended in Chicago in 2006 that she realized just how deep her passion for Spoken Word ran.

It was at the workshop she had an opportunity to express her thoughts and emotions on the page – a space where she could process life’s transitions, hardships and questions.

“It was very personal,” Jones says. “I lived the content of the poem long before it ever hit the page.”

As she began to speak the written word, her thoughts and emotions began to exist in gesture, posture and breath – they came alive.  And as she moved from merely speaking the piece to performing it, she affirmed for herself the validity of the art and her position in it.

The gift of time and space

Jones has since poured her time and effort into developing herself and others in the art of Spoken Word. Her passion is to create spaces for others to write, speak and perform, ultimately cultivating a community of artists that develop a deep appreciation for the integrity of this art form.

As a liberal arts major at MCTC, Jones had the chance to utilize her time spent in class to develop her own creativity.

“Taking MCTC’s Intro to Poetry and Creative Non-Fiction courses have provided me with time and space to write,” Jones says. “Spoken Word relies heavily on performance, so I’m grateful for my decision to take the Intro to Acting course as well. The skills learned in that class, along with the opportunity to be on stage, will definitely carry over into the world of Spoken Word.”

Jones regularly facilitates classes and workshops on performance art and creative writing in Twin Cities area schools, prisons and other facilities with youth programming. She is also an active Spoken Word artist, activist, educator and organizer in the Twin Cities and abroad.

Passion that spreads

This spring, Jones brought a greater awareness of performance art to MCTC. She, along with MCTC English faculty member Steve Healey and MCTC student Tim Blighton, organized a series of Spoken Word workshops called Don’t Cuff the Mic!. These workshops featured performances and coaching by award-winning Twin Cities’ Spoken Word artists including Guante, Desdamona and Tou Saiko Lee.

“There are students who attend MCTC that are hungry for Spoken Word,” Jones says.  “What is it? How do you do it? Who is already doing it? How can I get connected with them? Events like this help build community, providing people with an entry point into the art form and a way to get some of their questions answered.” 

Don’t Cuff the Mic! is just one way Jones has been able to provide her peers and community with space – space to learn and create out of the overflow of their personal experience.

“To sharpen your skills as a poet, and to do so using your own life as your inspiration is educational,” Jones says. “The growth happens on an academic, personal and social level.”

Don't Cuff the Mic! is a series of Spoken Word workshops lead by some of the Twin Cities’ premiere Spoken Word artists: Guante, Desdamona, and Tou Saiko Lee. These award-winning, nationally and internationally renowned, multi-talented poets also performed their work at a grand finale Open Mic on April 12 as part of MCTC’s Helland Center Grand Opening activities


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