I am an English Major: Austin Jones


The very first word that comes to my mind when I think of Austin Jones is passionate. He loves what he does and wants to tell the whole world about it. At BYU’s most recent poetry slam, Jones stole the show with his performance of the Unapologetic English Major.

We were so impressed by his performance that we couldn’t wait to interview him and get the details on his literary life. Below you can find an insider’s look into our interview with Jones and see that he’s not only awesome while performing, but also he’s an amazing person in real life.

Q: Why do you love being an English Major?
I became an English Major because I thought math and science were boring. What I mean by that is when you learn that 2 + 2 is four everybody gets the same answer. I get four, you get four, the quiet kid in the corner gets four, the professor gets four, and then we just move on to learning something else. But in literature there is never really a right answer. The things we learn aren’t as black and white. Was Gatsby really great? Or was he just a loser? What is a particular poem trying to say about society as a whole? Those questions don’t really have a real answer so we can talk about it forever. Characters, people, situations, etc are so complex that person A and person B can arrive at different conclusions which can ultimately both be accurate; as well, each person in the room can contribute their unique life experiences to the idea giving it yet another interesting layer to investigate. Now that is way better than a class where everyone is hoping to find the same boring answer to a problem.
Then once we arrive at a suitable conclusion we learn how to effectively communicate the answer we arrived at and why we find that particular answer persuasive. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that the morality of Jay Gatsby’s actions does not actually matter in the slightest, nor are Shakespeare musings about love and relationships in sonnet 130 really important to my daily life, but the skills of honest and deliberate analysis and the ability to clearly articulate your findings are the most useful skills that I can think of. At least that’s what I hope the English major will do for my classmates and I.
Q: Could you explain a little bit about your performance and why you chose that topic?
I’m Glad you used the word performance. Slam poetry really is a performance. Some poetry is best read alone on a quiet night, some poetry is best read as a small group sitting in a graveyard, but slam poetry is meant to be performed.  To be honest, if you read my poem out of a book it would probably suck, because I’m not really hoping to just impart a bunch of words to the audience I am hoping to conjure a certain feeling. I want my audience to feel passion, I want them to feel a fire, I want them to feel excitement, and the thing I love about performing slam poetry is that if you do it right, you can become the very personification of the feelings you are trying to convey.
So that’s why I try and get so loud. I tried to start more quiet and conversational and then work myself up until I became more aggressive, loud, and passionate. I flail my arms around a lot and try to make over-the-top movements all to contribute to that same sense.
I’ve actually been thinking about writing this poem for a long time but I was hesitant to because I didn’t want to send the message that slam poetry, or any poetry, is just for English Majors. Great poets can come from any background and one of the points of slam poetry is that everyone has a unique story and point of view to be shared. That being said, I chose this topic because I am often frustrated by the stereotype attached to the English Major as being pointless and a dead end. Like I say in the poem,

“words are powerful.”

I know that that is a cliche but I when I say it I don’t want it to sound that way. I’ve been able to spend the last almost four years filling up my head with the words of some of the most brilliant and influential people to have ever lived. That’s changed me as a person for the better and I believe that in some small ways it has begun to give me the ability to persuade other people to think about the world differently. After every performance I’ve had lots of people approach me and tell me how much they like my poems. to those people, I am flattered, but my secret is that if my poems impress you or make you feel anything at all it’s not because I am some awesome genius writer but it is because I have spent a long time absorbing the great work of other people. and that’s something else I love about the English major is the opportunity to just soak up the words of brilliant men and women. 
Q: What are your other hobbies/interests?
I really believe in being well rounded. Of course I love all that other ‘English majory’ stuff too: I love books, theater, poetry and I love Harry Potter. However, I also love sports. I play volleyball, I snow ski, I wakeboard, I hike, I’m training for a half marathon. I play guitar and  bass and even sing when the moods right. I really enjoy going to concerts, especially ones where there is standing room only so I can dance and mosh and whatnot. I absolutely love to cook. Food is a big deal for me. I love to experiment with everything from Chinese food and Indian curry to BBQ and hot wings.
Q: What are the coolest things about you?
-This is actually the third poem I have written that has won the English Society poetry Slam. I was also able to perform a poem for the hunger banquet last year too, So I am starting to gather a stack of poems that I am moderately proud of.
-I served as a mandarin speaking missionary in the Scotland/ Ireland Mission, I know it sounds weird but it was great.
-I love to travel, I did the BYU London center study abroad last fall and lived in Kunming China last summer
-I was actually born in Holland, because my father was in the air force. I’m not sure If I could be president or not……
-I NEVER match my socks.
Q: What do you want people to know about your poetry, poetry slams, and the English major?
Slam poetry is awesome and for everyone! I’ve never met someone who didn’t like it once they gave it a chance
My poetry is important to me. I know that it is a success when I can get the audience to feel something. I love the challenge that that brings. I have three minutes to try and transport you to a different place with a different mood then the one you are currently in and all I get to use is my voice. It is so great when the audience responds with laughs or cheers or whatever because I know that I have hit a nerve. It’s even better when I see that something I have said sinks into someone’s head. Our thoughts are just an amalgamation of ideas from all over the place and I can’t think of a better honor then to have someone allow a thought from my head to germinate in theirs.
lastly about the English Degree….. an English degree is not about becoming your elderly high school English teacher who dinged your grade for having a misplaced comma, or who always corrected your grammar by interrupting you mid-sentence. I’ve never taken a single grammar or editing class at BYU. Sure grammar and commas are important, they are the tools of the trade. Of course a carpenter knows  about saws and wood and safety goggles but you are totally missing the point of what a carpenter is capable of creating if you waste any time at all fixated on his knowledge of saws, wood, and goggles. However, while a carpenter’s finished products are cabinets and tables a writer/poet/speaker/etc. finished product is the material of persuasion: people who have received a new perspective, or who have been persuaded to view the world differently, and when you really think about it, that is a whole lot of power.
AJ 1

Austin is a slam poet, a musician, an athlete, a performer, and an English Major.

If you haven’t seen Austin’s performance yet, check it out here!

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