" Like any child, I saw beauty. I saw the lonely star dancing in the dark. I sat on our torn couch and watched the hovering smoke swirl. I didn’t pay attention to holes in our shades or the dirt on our windows. I sat and stared at fluttering dust in a sunbeam that slapped our dinner-table. I never, never stopped noticing beauty. Not because I forced myself to ignore ugliness, but—in all the loveless-ness of a drug-den—my soul never gave up on the gods."
--John S. Blake
"Cause poetry saves lives" Will be his answer, should anyone ask him "Why teach poetry?"
John S. Blake reaches inside his students. He loves teaching. He loves writing. He is poetry's biggest fan. You can see it in the way he can't sit still in a classroom or during a writing workshop. He can't stop reading poems or assuring the novice writer "if I can get clean, you can write that poem".
John S. Blake almost let the world against him win; heroin laden project houses on the lower east side of Manhattan, his drug addicted parents, the racist perspective of the 70's against his half-white half-Black existence, the gangs, the poverty. When his father was diagnosed with AIDS and his mother was convicted of manslaughter, John fell into the chaos of chemical dependency. By the time John was in his mid-30s, he lost his entire family to the streets; illnesses tied to addiciton (HIV, Hep C, Cancer), prison, psychiatric institutions, and hopelessness. Upon deciding to die at the tip of a needle, John discovered a poem. The poem, so moving, convinced Blake it was time to do something different. Something better. He began writing, and never looked back.
Now studying Creative Writing and African American Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, a finalist at the National Poetry Slam (2007 Austin TX), no one can deny the miracle. After being published in ARDOR, Naugatuck River Review of Narrative Poetry, Adobe Walls Literary Journal, Two Bridges Review, Red Fez, Malpais Review, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize, John S. Blake published his first full collection of poems titled "Beautifully Flawed" (Urban Publishing, NYC). Since being nominated for a "Champions of Change" Award issued by the White House, he's traveled the United States, reading his work and teaching at universities (Drury, Columbia, SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Westchester, Community College of New Mexico, VCU and others), public schools and behind bars for both youth (Santa Fe Youth Rehabilitation Program, Los Angeles Youth Corrections, San Mateo Youth Correctional Facility, Columbus Indiana Youth Corrections) and adults (Phoenix House, Turning Point Rehabilitation Ctr NYC, LES Needle Exchange Program, Richmond City Jail, Henrico County Jail, and others). He believes the work is all that matters. He speaks often about how poetry saved his life, how poetry saves lives often, and was invited to tell his store at a TEDx event. John S. Blake now teaches creative writing to youth through the Henrico Cultural Arts Center of Glen Allen in an eight-part series for an upcoming summer program.
People have tried to tell him how he's changed their lives, and his response is always the same;
"If it wasn't me, it would have been someone else. That's how this universe works!"
This website contains testimony of students, faculty, writers, and performers John has had the pleasure of working with. Here, you'll find video of performances and the opportunity to purchase his work.
"Of course you're scared! You have no reason to believe writing the truth
for all to read has any payoff! That's why risk is necessary;
without risk, you may never get the evidence you need to calm or kill the fear you feel; fear of being exposed, fear of being unloved, fear of mediocrity!
And your fear loves it this way; risk-free and without evidence contrary to the horror-story on repeat in your minds. Fear tells you nothing about you is worth knowing. There has to be someone beautiful your mirror that fear hides from us all!"