Friday, August 25, 2006

Jasen Sousa: A Young Somerville writer who publishes poetry inspired by pain.

By Doug Holder.

Jasen Sousa, 24, born and bred in Somerville, Mass, is no stranger to the “mean streets.” He saw many of his peers succumb to the perils of drug addiction, and the dead ends that lie on the other-side-of-the- tracks. When Sousa was eighteen years old a friend of his committed suicide and he started to write poetry as a balm to the psychic pain he was experiencing. He wanted to write poetry about a part of Somerville that is distantly removed from the tony environs of Davis Square. He writes of gangs, violence, but also the search for identity and love.

To fund his fledgling poetry publishing enterprise “J -Rock Publishing,” Sousa worked long hours at a variety of jobs, and managed to save $2,000 for his first collection of poetry “Life& Weather.”

Sousa affects a Hip-Hop style of dress, but when he speaks he seems gentle, considerate and articulate. He told the News that he has been influenced by the late Hip-Hop artist Tupac Shakur, as well as Poe’s dark poetry. His poetry tends to rhyme, and is sometimes read in the cadence of a Rap song.

Sousa feels that kids need to see a poet and writer who “looks like them.” And indeed, Sousa has a boyish face that makes it easy for him to pass as a teen. From the revenues of sales from his four books; he takes several local kids to attend an annual poetry convention in Las Vegas. He said that at the convention his book sells extremely well. In fact, in four years he claims to have sold 5,000 copies of his first book; (convention sales and others), an amount that would make any small press publisher salivate over.

His poetry books include: “Life and Weather,” “Almost Forever,” and “Close Your Eyes and Dream With Me,” and are sold at Newbury Comics in Boston and Porter Square Books in Cambridge.

Sousa said he wrote the poems for his collection “Almost Home Free,” in cemeteries in and around Somerville and Boston. He needed the graves to inspire his writing about the losses he has experienced in his hardscrabble life.

Sousa says his family is as supportive as they can be, given that fact they are a traditional Portuguese clan, that are hesitant to talk about their problems and emotions in public, much less in a book. Sousa is an ambitious young man, and currently works three jobs, and is attending Emerson College in Boston. He just completed a course with the noted writer Matthew Pearl.

Sousa hopes that in the future he can create a large publishing concern that prints books for young people all over the world. Right now he is trying to compile an international anthology of children’s writing. According to Sousa he has taken a different path than many of his peers, and he hopes to bring his art to the greater world, but still with an eye on his roots in the ‘Ville.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

To find out more about Jasen go to

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