Episode 20 – Jamaal Jackson Rogers (Just Jamaal thePoet)

The Small Machine Talks Episode 20

Recorded Sunday, July 30, 2017

w/ a.m. kozak, Amanda Earl and special guest Jamaal Jackson Rogers

We have an inspiring conversation with Ottawa’s poet laureate, recording/performance artist and arts educator, Jamaal Jackson Rogers.


We talk about the origin and rationale for the Origin Arts and Community Centre, a new venue serving artists and art-lovers, an alternative space for expression, co-creation and collaboration. The Origin was founded by Jamaal, Jacqui du Toi and Captain.


Aaron takes an interest in the cupboards on the ceiling of the Origin. We learn about the renovations necessary. The space used to be used by the Happy Goat Coffee Company. Amanda complains about her plantar fasciitus. Jamaal discusses the vision for the Origin and plans for inter-arts workshops and retreats, and his view on art as dedication and practice for all.

Aaron feels that artistic practice is a lifestyle, a commitment. Amanda says her whole life is relating to creating and promoting art and poetry from all over the world, that it isn’t a choice. We talk about overriding the negative voice. Jamaal and Amanda talk about their mutual admiration.

Amanda asks about Jamaal’s experiences in India and working with students grade 6 to end of high school and spoken word organizations. Jamaal talks about the importance of having a mindset of an observer. He’s been to India five times and other places in North America, Oman and more. He talks about the experience of being in the middle of nowhere.

We discuss the idea of performance vs delivery, how poetry comes as an offering from those around us.

Jamaal talks about the universality of poetry, which is at the heartbeat of artistic practises. He discusses the universe of poetry in children, if you can reach them and help them to bring it out. He feels that a mentor just needs to be someone whose honest with you and your work, not necessarily a master or someone older.

Aaron enjoys working with those in crafts other than poetry. Amanda is embarrassed by her early prescriptive attitudes about poetry.

We talk about some of Jamaal’s performances, particularly Care About Us, a remix of a Michael Jackson song, the Urban Legends Team performed at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word and how dance helped to make the experience joyful for audience.


Jamaal talks about when and where movement as part of his poetry works and doesn’t work. He will be training with Jacqui to learn to incorporate more theatre in his performances. Aaron mentions that movement can be distracting to an audience. Jamaal talks about the way he dresses as part of his performance. Amanda talks about her red steel-toed Wolverine boots that she wears for readings. Aaron has learned he makes weird facial expressions when he performs.

We talk about Jamaal’s plans as poet laureate, including creating events, supporting them and performing at events. He wants to do a high school slam in one of the school boards and also organize a conference with poets and spoken word artists. Amanda talks about poetry as a living thing. We discuss the perception of what poetry is in the general public and how to change that perception.

Aaron asks if there’s an increased spotlight on Jamaal now that he’s poet laureate. Jamaal tries not to think about the pressure too much, hopes that he leaves something that the next poet laureate can use or be inspired by. We talk about the appropriateness of freestyling a commissioned piece. Amanda says the word “respectful” is not in her vocabulary.

We talk about the W.I.Z.E Soul Project, a genius vision from Rudy Charles, a music producer Jamaal likens to Quincy Jones.


The Wize is a hip hop, soul, funk and R & B group featuring Just Jamaal the Poet, Jay Baskin and Doressa.


Early participants included Montreal singer-songwriter,Magdala


and Ian Ketuku


Amanda mentions Bolo, the Dictator’s Son, a great video series of animated poems he’s done that were illustrated by James White.


The W.I.Z.E includes Jamaal and two younger artists. The music is positive and is aimed at people mid-teens to 40s. Amanda mentions she liked it and she’s in her 50s.

K.O.M., featuring Magdala


Amanda talks about the fierce joy in Jamaal’s poetry and mentions

Ignite, a collaboration with Laura Bidner:


She asks how life’s trials and tribulations have contributed to Jamaal’s acts of creations. He says that difficult and dark times have helped him to recognize that there’s more to life than giving in to the dark times. Laura and Jamaal talked about their mutual experiences of depression.

We talk about A Poem for Life dedicated to a friend and his family. Life can be here one moment and then gone. Urgency is necessary.


We finish with a brief discussion and appreciation for podcasts.

Thanks to Jamaal for spending valuable time with us and sharing his words and vision.

Stay tuned for our interview with Joseph Ianni and more episodes on the poetry and performance scene in Central Canada and beyond!