Jones creates a beautiful and brutally honest "love letter" to Milwaukee
This article originally ran in 2018.
Kavon Cortez Jones loves Milwaukee. And unlike many Milwaukeeans, he's experienced the full Milwaukee – the one that is a mix of bandshell concerts and drive-by shootings; a sparkling lake and a serious segregation problem.
The poet and performer recently expressed this unconditional love for a remarkable-yet-problematic city in a spectacular 7-minute spoken word piece called, aptly, "A Love Letter To Milwaukee."
The piece, set to guitar music by Alex Heaton, is an eloquent shout-out to a slew of local events, cafes, people and museums with his personal story woven in. He speaks of his adoration of the Art Museum at night – "the sleeping Calatrava rests its wings" – as well as a description of white plaster falling from the ceiling after his home was "shot up" eight times.
Jones grew up on Milwaukee's North Side and it wasn't until his stepfather gave him a "junkyard bike" that he was able to explore other neighborhoods and attractions in the city for the first time including Downtown, the Third Ward and Lake Michigan.
"I never knew so many white people lived in this city," he says midway through the poem.
Jones' inspiration for "Love Letter" came from the current Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez whom he met in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood during the annual poetry block party. The two writers traded books.
"I headed back home to Milwaukee and read in his book, 'A Love Poem to Los Angeles.' I was like, 'hey, why don't I write a love letter to Milwaukee?'" Jones says.
The poem is a sequel to "Paris of the Midwest," a monologue he wrote as a self-described "dreamy-eyed 18-year-old fresh out of (Riverside) high school."
Jones, who is 23, is the host of Express Yourself Milwaukee's Good Eats Open Mic, a part-time True Skool intern and a teaching apprentice at First Stage.
"I love having the privilege to work with Holly Haebig, Shalina Ali and Fidel Verdin," he says. "They are three incredible community members who vicariously influence me with their relentless passion for arts integration and a better Milwaukee."
Jones is currently writing a tribute to Sun Ra and continues to sell his debut poetry book "Club Noir," already in its eighth printing, in coffee shops.
"I can't wait to have more adventures around the city and write about them," says Jones.
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