Getting the Gurlz Interview w/ I.S Jones 


Itiola Jones is a queer American / Nigerian poet and music journalist. She is the 2018 winner of the Brittle Paper Award for Poetry. I.S. hosts a month-long workshop every April, called “The Singing Bullet.” Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in Guernica, The Rumpus, The Offing, The Shade Journal, and elsewhere. She is an MFA candidate in Poetry at UW-Madison.

We think you’re hot. Do you get that a lot?


Oh, thank you so much. I receive this. My best friends and I have this running joke about the varying degrees of hot we feel the other is & he described me as “Tumblr Hot”, which I attribute to all the piercings and the tattoos. I often hear that I am cool more than I am hot, which is a new development that I’m delighted by. 


We think you’re smart. Do you get that too in your academic sectors?

I believe that I am deliberate, thorough, and passionate in how I teach, how I talk about writing and other things I love like stargazing. I do feel my ideas are  immensely supported and championed by my professors. 


In what ways has your appearance affected your career and the way people perceive you, your agency and validity, and the way you navigate male-dominated spaces in the industry? Have you felt like you’ve had to prove yourself more- your intelligence/staying power, etc in the industry because of your perceived beauty?


I’m always thinking of how I move through the world as both as a dark-skinned Black woman, a dark-skinned Black femme and how I’ve had to assert myself because it’s a matter of survival. I’ve been told I can be intimidating because I look people 


In an interview Morgan Parker told Rachel Zucker that not often enough people say her work is smart.  Do you ever feel this way? That often beautiful artist/creators are called beautiful more than they are smart?  Was there a specific moment that solidifies this for you?


I mean, pretty privilege is very real in any profession. That often women and femmes are judged by their looks which affects the way people approach their work and how seriously such work is taken. If someone is perceived as “conventionally attractive” then their pain is taken more seriously, or to be frank, people care more about their suffering. Do I believe being perceived as “attractive” affects the way people interact with my work? Yes. Do I also believe that because my pen is I.S. Jones, if people haven’t seen my face, they assume I’m a man and take me more seriously? Also yes. 


I have been attractive in academic spaces, more so when I straighten my hair, but there isn’t a specific moment.


Do you find when you tell people (primarily men) that you write full time, they react by patronizing or underestimating the validity of your work?

A man once, before my chapbook was selected, insisted on giving me unsolicited publishing advice because he needed to interview at least one woman for his own project. 


Have there been times in business meetings, phone calls, interviews, academic spaces, etc where you’ve had to assert yourself more or speak up more because you were talked over or your comment disregarded? How did you handle that situation?


This has happened to me often. I’ve had male bosses attempt to steal my ideas right in front of me. 


What advice would you give young women entering the business?


If by “the business”, you mean the “business of writing”, then I would say safeguard your personal space and the space in which you create. Trust people who demonstrate that they deserve your trust.  Write what is most urgent to you. 



Khalisa Rae is a poet and journalist in Durham, NC that speaks with furious rebellion and aims to serve the community. She is the author of Ghost in a Black Girl's Throat (Red Hen Press 2021). Her essays and articles are featured in Autostraddle, Catapult, LitHub, B*tch Media, NBC-BLK, and others. Her poetry appears in Frontier Poetry, Florida Review, Rust & Moth, PANK, Hellebore, HOBART, among countless others. She is the winner of the Bright Wings Poetry contest, the Furious Flower Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, and the White Stag Publishing Contest, among other prizes. Currently, she serves as Assistant Editor for Glass Poetry and co-founder of Think in Ink and the Women of Color Speak reading series. She is the newest columnist for Palette Poetry and her second collection Unlearning Eden is forthcoming from White Stag Publishing in 2022. Follow here at @k_lisarae on Twitter. Find more information here:

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