Photo credit
Randy Kelly


Jamaal Amir Akbari (previously Jamaal Jackson Rodgers), stage name JustJamaal ThePoet, is an award winning poet, arts educator and served as Ottawa's English Poet Laureate from 2017-2019. He uses his style of free verse, spoken word, mixed with his influences from RnB/Rap/Hiphop, to share his story of moving from tragedy to triumph locally and abroad. His favorite moments are when he makes connections with audiences and participants in his workshops or on stage.


Did you read poetry when you were in high school? Is there a particular poem that you loved when you were a teenager?

I read poetry when I was in High School, plenty of Rumi and Khalil Gibran, but also Langston Hughes and William Shakespeare.

I particularly enjoyed the poem “Harlem: A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes.

When did you first start writing poetry? And then when did you start thinking of yourself as a poet?

I wrote my first poem when I was 9 years old, in grade four for Valentine’s Day. The feeling of sharing it with the class was unforgettable, and I’ve been writing poetry since.

I began thinking of myself as a poet after I decided to request a fee for my services as a writer of poetry. This was about 10 years ago.

What do you think a poet’s “job” is?

A poet's job is to celebrate, elevate and educate the poetic license and craft.

A poet ‘celebrates’ their craft through practice, creation and sharing of their own work,

'educates' through the craft by passing on learned skills and knowledge to fellow writers and enthusiasts,

and 'elevates' the craft by being informed of the history, present and future incarnations of the practice, while being advocates for the poetic practice and license.

If you had to choose one poem to memorize from our anthology, which one would it be?

George Elliot Clarke’s “Blank Sonnet


Poem title(s)
Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership
Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership
Monday June 18
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