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Jon Goode

Jon Goode exudes poetic charm both on and off the stage. The Emmy-nominated spoken-word poet and author brings his thoughtful, intentional lyricism to all he writes and says. And Jon Goode, has a lot to say!

Goode published the poetry collection “Conduit,” in 2015; in 2020, he published the novel “Mydas.” He has written for TV platforms including CNN, MTV and BET and created award-winning work for several Fortune 500 companies. He was a series regular on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam and currently hosts The Moth Atlanta, a renowned storytelling platform.

Curiously, Goode’s path into writing and poetic performance was a winding one: from the Marine Corps to an economics degree to an accounts payable executive at an Atlanta-based financial services firm. One day, a colleague invited him to attend an open-mic night for spoken-word poetry and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Moved by the performances he heard that evening, Goode went home and wrote his own spoken-word poem — and hasn’t stopped writing since.

In this illuminating conversation with NEXT Executive Director Faith Carmichael, Goode describes how art can clarify questions about our current moment, how he tries to shape his own work to engage those questions, and why he believes there is always hope and light. See his work | Buy his work

Photos by: Terence Rushin and Steve West


NEXT: What have the past few years been like for you, personally and as an artist?
Jon Goode: The last couple of years for me, just as a person, they were rough because one thing happens, then another thing happens, and you haven’t processed the one before. So you’re just dealing with a constant barrage of what feels almost like post-traumatic stress. But in the midst of that, I’ve been blessed. I’ve had so many people calling me to write, so it was an interesting juxtaposition: There I am in the middle of trying to process everything and also find the creative side of my brain to push the work forward.
NEXT: Can you tell us more about that? The work you have been trying to push forward?
Jon Goode: It’s the artist’s responsibility to speak to the times we live in. And yet to find a way to write about everything that’s been happening in a way that didn’t make everything seem the same. Breonna Taylor is not George Floyd. And George Floyd is not Trayvon Martin. And Trayvon Martin is not Freddie Gray. There’s this way in which all of these things can seem the same, but they’re all uniquely different. So you had to find what was unique in each of those instances and then write from that lens. But then also you had to find moments of joy to write about, because there’s joy in life, there’s joy amid the struggle. There’s joy in everything. So it couldn’t just be all struggle.
NEXT: And how does art specifically engage with that struggle and that joy?
Jon Goode: I feel like no problem can be solved until it is properly addressed and defined. And so what artists do when they write, for example, is to help define what the actual issue is. And once we’ve defined the issue, then we can move forward trying to find a solution. Sometimes when people look at what artists write, they feel like the artistic work offers no solutions. My thought about that is there may be no solution, but the work clarifies the question — and then in clarifying the question, you can find the answer. I think sometimes being able to clearly identify and see the issue for what it is then gives people the space to move forward and figure out how they’re going to solve the problem.
NEXT: In your own particular role as an artist, how are you speaking to our current moment?
Jon Goode: What I try to do is point my pain into what’s going on and write objectively. I don’t sugarcoat things and just give it to you straight. And when I write that way, the biggest compliment I get is when people say, “You wrote what I was feeling.” And that gives a person the impetus to say, “Ok, this is what I’m feeling. Now what am I going to do about it?”
NEXT: What do you say to people who say there is no hope, no way to get out of the quagmire and mess of our current times?
Jon Goode: I would say to anyone who says there is no hope that they are looking in the wrong place. There’s always hope. There’s always light. There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “Yay, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” There’s a valley, there’s a shadow, there’s death. It’s all very dark. But even within that verse, there’s a light. You can’t get a shadow without a light. So even though the light is not explicitly mentioned, if you look — if you search for it, there’s a light in there. So for people who say that they can’t see the light, I would say that maybe you are the light. Maybe you can’t see the light because you need to look in the mirror.

5 Artists. Many Stories. 1 Movement.

NEXT joined forces with MARTA to amplify the voices of Atlanta’s premier artists reflecting on a post-pandemic world dealing with a cultural reckoning.

At NEXT, we are about more than art for art’s sake. At NEXT, we believe that together we can use our individual creative expression to find solutions to our community’s intractable social challenges. Through our talents and our passion, NEXT unleashes the potential of creative communities in order to inspire countless others who share our vision to get involved.