Author of Reflections: Poetry, Mr. Beautiful Mind (Nick Jones), takes readers through his real life experiences through the art of poetry. Chicago Flex recently got a chance to catch up with Mr. Beautiful Mind, who shared with us when he developed his love for writing, how his mother played a vital role in helping him to understand life, and what this book represents.
What were you like as a child/teen growing up on the South Side? Were you always into writing?
Mr. Beautiful Mind: My life as a child/teen growing up was no different than any other person on the Southside of Chicago; I believe my direction was probably different just as theirs were because of the households we come from and the area we lived in. I started out on the right path as a child and as a teen, and I encountered hardships and let downs like other kids did, but to what extent I can only speak about my own. I didn’t always only write; it was a combination of drawing and writing. However, drawing was my first love and I was pretty good at drawing, so good that I almost failed 5th grade because of it. I spent a lot of my class time drawing comics and other creations. But, I had multiple outlets that I created to distract me or hold my attention in addition to drawing and writing, I also cut hair, and listened to music. If you knew me or were around me you never would catch me doing anything but these things as a child/teen.
Why do you think your mom taught you about the “3 R’s”?
Mr. Beautiful Mind: My mother was a disciplinarian by all accounts like a lot of mothers during my generation and she wanted me to understand how difficult life could be as I grew older. She wanted me to be prepared for the world by not just reading but understanding what I read, and not just in the books I read, but the outside world as well. She wanted me to be mentally disciplined and not be afraid to speak; to speak with respect so I could receive it in return and also understand that life was bigger than what we were surrounded with. She wanted me to understand that although we didn’t have everything by society standards we had the one thing that we had control over and that was our mind. I came in contact with a lot of strong mothers during my generation such as teachers, and neighbors who encouraged this process in different forms, but the 3 R’s from my mother is what started it.
Were you escaping a particular experience while you wrote and read?
Mr. Beautiful Mind: When we moved to the Southside it was a culture shock from living on the Westside of Chicago where I was born and raised until I was 11. Sure I had family that lived in the Henry Horner Homes that we visited frequently, but moving into these high rise buildings I didn’t feel a sense of detachment of what I knew until it happened to me. I think I grew up like any child that was born into illiteracy, violence, and no financial mindset of how life was supposed to be by society standards. Gangs, poverty, and violence and all the other hardships that came along were normal to me, but I was able to still be a child. Being new to the Southside of Chicago I was bullied a little until everyone got to know me. My mother was strict so our movements were restricted to school, outside ramp, and the library up until my sophomore year of high school. At that time I found me a job to earn my own money. I started hanging out more on the Eastside of Chicago where my school was located because I felt more comfortable and accepted. Let’s just say as a teen I was able to fit in and move around without being associated with a crowd and my priorities and responsibilities were different and the Southside help mold those differences. I started writing as an escape from my new environment; it helped me cope with everything that was going on in my household and what I was experiencing outside of it as well. Writing was a way for me to become better at reading as I grew older. The streets didn’t have a hold on me in my teenage years and it was like that for most of us growing up, the streets didn’t consume most of us until the early 90’s, sure we had some bad apples, but the explosion didn’t happen until the early 90’s on a whole.
What does writing mean to you?
Mr. Beautiful Mind: Writing means a lot to me because it keeps me grounded on how and what conversation is supposed to be like regardless of Social Media, slang, and emoji communication that everyone uses these days. I believe in the old art form of writing because it’s more expressive and direct and you can connect with people to see where their thought process is at.
Why did you target the genre of poetry?
Mr. Beautiful Mind: I love poetry because it has a mixture of emotion, passion, love, tragedy, and joy. When poetry was written in the early years it challenged the mind to think about what was written and the writers thinking or thought process while he or she was writing and I wanted to bring that back so people could question the ideas of what is being written, challenge their own thought process. I believe everything is straightforward these days where people do not have to use their minds to figure things out and I wanted to bring that back when it comes to writing.
How did you come up with the name of the book and the pen name Mr. Beautiful Mind?
Mr. Beautiful Mind: Well, the name of the book is Reflections: Poetry reflected into pieces of thoughts. The whole book itself from the cover to the inside of the book has its individual story to tell. Reflections is just taking a look back on the journey that I took from a child until now as an adult and I thought it was fitting for my first book because it is definitely a piece of me in everything I wrote. The cover of the book is a Reflection as well because it shows where I grew up, the long winding road as the journey, and my son on the cover who is the exact same age I was when I started writing, and the vast space that is left for me to explore.
Mr. Beautiful Mind is the pen name that I write under and I acquired that name once I saw the movie called “Beautiful Mind” featuring Russell Crowe. The movie shows his journey from being brilliant to becoming sick and overcoming that sickness no matter the odds and in some ways, this is how I feel. Growing up in all black surroundings I had a sickness that I had to overcome and it started with the lies I was told, how I was raised in my community and what was taught from generation to generation, and I felt that if I can overcome this and develop my own process of thinking that I would see the world and who I am from a different perspective.
What is one experience you write about in this book?
Mr. Beautiful Mind: Everything that was written in my book is an experience in some form or another, but if I had to choose I think I would pick “Awakening” because it’s my journey from what I learned and how I feel and what I have seen countless times that has lead us to nowhere. We think we have moved into a position of power through others and we have not moved into a position of power within ourselves.
What do you hope people who read this book get out of it?
Mr. Beautiful Mind: Some of my poetry is direct and to the point and some of it I want people to actually think and figure out what I was talking about and try to put themselves on the scene and visualize what is it based off of by using their own thought process. This is why I have a page for my readers to write down what their reflections are based on what was written. Hopefully, I can awaken minds and bring some kind of emotion back into this world that has been overshadowed by Social Media and Reality TV.
Why did you decide to donate 10% of proceeds to the American Diabetes Association?
Mr. Beautiful Mind: I dedicated the book to my grandmother because she passed away in 1987 from a diabetic stroke and we were very close when I was younger. My mother has diabetes and my late father was a diabetic as well. I knew at some point I would likely be susceptible to diabetes because of genetics. In 2013 I was diagnosed with diabetes and when I decided to finally write this book I wanted to donate 10% of the proceeds so I could do my part. I know some people will ask why now, but they have to understand you shouldn’t move at the pace of what others think you should do, you should do it when you think the time is right, so you can contribute the right amount of time and not feel forced to participate which can leave you uneasy.
Where do you hope your writing takes you in the next few years?
Mr. Beautiful Mind: It’s not so much as where my writing will take me, I hope I can take my readers who are interested in what I have to say somewhere in the next few years. I write as I think any author does for themselves because of the joy it brings and we hope we can bring joy and understanding to others.
Anything else you would like to add in that I didn’t ask you?
Mr. Beautiful Mind: Most of my readers probably would like to know why I chose the language for the introduction and chapters the way I did and the reason I chose those languages is because during the beginning of time those countries were fluent in poetry and the way they lived had passion, violence, rage, murder, and most of all love which is similar to the way we live now. They expressed themselves in everything they did which is now considered some of the finest works of our time. I also wanted my readers to search the language and see what it said and how I approached my writing and the set up for it.
You can purchase Reflections: Poetry on Amazon