TUSCALOOSA, AL– Jahman Hill, a Kansas state native and a Graduate Student at The University of Alabama, had hopes of being 6’4 and a basketball superstar when he was in high school. Attempting to obtain basketball scholarships that would never come, Hill found another opportunity—debating. Hill found his niche in debate and speech at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas where he would be granted a scholarship and transfer to The University of Alabama his Junior year of college; the beginning of the road to becoming a poet and the publishing of his first book, Made From My Mother’s Ceilings.
Hill was persuaded to begin writing poetry by one of his fellow speech team members at Alabama, Eric Marable, Jr. After his poetry was well received by the audience during his first stage performance, Hill decided that he wanted to continue his new found talent so he kept writing and started speaking and reciting his poetry at different events that he was invited to around campus. A year or so later, Hill decided to take his writing to the next level and started competing whenever slam opportunities became available.
He took his poems to the big stage at the World Poetry Slam in Washington, D.C. and it proved to be a great learning experience for Hill, “I learned that this is what people do with poetry and I came back to Tuscaloosa hungry,” Hill said about his defeat in Washington. Upon his return, Hill began to study his craft, observing slams rather than participating, and finding inspiration in other poets like Toni Morrison. Hill also began utilizing the tools given to him by another poet he met during the slam to create more opportunities for poetry in Tuscaloosa.
During his Senior year, Hill discovered a new opportunity to take his poetry to the next level; he wanted to go to Nationals. Facing the challenge of funding for the trip, Kailey Webster- President of ASAP- and Hill were advised to start the organization now known as ASAP- Alabama Student Association for Poetry. ASAP became more than just a way to gain funding for his trip to nationals however, Hill and Webster, along with other colleagues, “were motivated to give poetry a space that was assessable to everyone, not just people that were doing it for school,” as Hill stated. The organization’s intentions are evident with their partnership with the local coffee shop, Monarch Espresso Bar; as Monarch open up their doors every Wednesday night for the organization to host their open mic night that is also free to the public.
As Hill continue to expand on ASAP, his poetry also continues to grow. Not only drawing inspiration from other poets and colleagues, he also finds inspiration in his studies. Exploring theory and philosophy in the classroom, Hill also explores theory and philosophical thought in his writing. G W F Hegel, Mills: The Racial Contract, Kenneth Burke, and The University of Alabama’s very own Dr. Robin Boylorn are some of Hill’s major influences and inspirations for his writing so it was no surprise when he expressed that writing for him comes easier during the school year than during the summer. “Poetry is my attempt to gain a sense of the world honestly,” explained Hill, spoken like a true enthusiast for philosophical thought.
“He is almost like a poetic activist, he is relevant yet comedic, and a free-spirit,” said Jordan Williams, a colleague and friend of Hill. Williams met Mr. Hill this year at a poetry event that took place in near-by Birmingham where they competed against one another, “He is a force to be reckon with and I learned to never compete against him again,” Williams said and giggled.
The future for Hill and ASAP are bright. With goals to create partnerships with more local businesses and generate more venues for all poets at The University of Alabama and Tuscaloosa to attend and have their voices heard. Hill continues to aim high with his goals for ASAP, “poetry will create and become a staple in Tuscaloosa,” he said.