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Power in words: 509th CONS Airman communicates through poetry

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class John Cone writes and reads one of his slam poetry pieces.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class John Cone, a contract administrator assigned to the 509th Contracting Squadron, recites one of his slam poetry pieces, titled “Daughter,” at Whiteman Air Force Base Mo., April 6, 2018. The poem described what his life would be like if he had a daughter and how proud a father can be of his daughter. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Taylor Phifer)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class John Cone writes and reads one of his slam poetry pieces.

A Blue Yeti USB Microphone is a popular microphone used to record clear audio at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. U.S. Air Force John Cone, a contract administrator assigned to the 509th Contracting Squadron, uses this type of microphone when performing slam poetry, a type of poetry allowing people to recite their poems without props, costumes or music. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Phifer)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class John Cone writes and reads one of his slam poetry pieces.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class John Cone, a contract administrator assigned to the 509th Contracting Squadron, recites one of his slam poetry pieces at Whiteman Air Force Base Mo., April 6, 2018. Cone has been writing and preforming slam poetry for four years as a way to creatively express himself. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Phifer)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class John Cone writes and reads one of his slam poetry pieces.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class John Cone, a contract administrator assigned to the 509th Contracting Squadron, writes one of his slam poetry pieces at Whiteman Air Force Base Mo., April 6, 2018. Cone writes about topics that most people can relate to like relationships and family. Slam poetry gives Cone the opportunity to express emotion in a raw and unfiltered state. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Phifer)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- As he took the stage for the first time, he looked out into the audience and felt like a fish in a fishbowl. Even though the nerves were there, he felt prepared after spending two weeks memorizing his piece. The stage lights were shining in his face as everyone stared up at him, waiting for him to speak. The crowd grew quieter as the room became darker. He took a deep breath, and on an exhale he began to recite his work.

“I wanted to create a piece to show just how much love a man can have for a woman, and it is called “Daughter.” Now, it’s important that you understand at no point now, or even in the near future do I want a kid, but like many people in my age group, I have thought about it, and I always thought that if I could raise a young man to be as intelligent and handsome as me, then I could make Darwin proud. And, I thought these thoughts until recently, when someone I look up to came to me talking about his 6-year-old girl. And, it wasn’t that she was some sort of amazing 6-year-old girl who could do things no other girl her age could do, she liked to read, dance and play. No, the pride came from the claim he could put on her, my daughter.”

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class John Cone, a contract administrator assigned to the 509th Contracting Squadron, spends his free time writing and preforming slam poetry as a way to creatively express himself.

“Slam poetry is generally a more intense and unfiltered version of what you would expect from poetry,” said Cone. “There is no mandatory rhyme scheme or pattern that needs to be followed since the main priority involves expressing emotion as effectively as possible.”

Cone got started with slam poetry after graduating high school, when his friend introduced him to Watsky Watsky, a high-energy slam poet and rapper. After listening and connecting with his words, Cone began to write his own.

“I heard a few slam pieces from him and one that I really connected with was “Tiny Glowing Screens Part Two,”” said Cone. “The part that resonated with me the most was, ‘I pick the angle that you view me and select the nicest light.’ I think social media, shallow relationships and everything else where you pretend to be happy is a part of this. You’re hiding your true self, picking the angle you want to be viewed and making yourself look good. I think we can all be guilty of this, we don’t want to be rejected so we go out of our way to make everyone think we live a happy and normal life.”

After hearing some of Watsky’s pieces, something clicked inside Cone and he immediately started writing his own poetry, one after another, with topics that most anyone could relate to.

Slam poetry gave Cone the opportunity to express emotion in a raw and unfiltered state that he felt most methods of poetry couldn’t reach.

“It offers a unique way to reach people in a world where it’s easy to be distant,” he said.

“And I started to think about what it would be like to say those words, my daughter. I could teach her to read, and dance, and tell her that boys are gross, because they are. And as she gets older, she might tell me she might doubt herself and even tell a few lies, but she would look so perfect in my eyes. I might even tell her the world doesn’t need to see her cleavage, an order she might disobey, and that’s okay, she can upload those photos of her at the beach anyways, because I know, at a certain age I only wanted my best features on display!”

“I write about issues that affect everyone like the importance of treating people the right way and being able to be yourself without fear of judgment,” said Cone. “Ultimately, I want to inspire millions of people.”

Cone said he finds the inspiration and drive to write from the reactions and support he receives from his listeners.

“Whenever I teach someone something important, or help people find meaning in what I said, it completely validates the entire endeavor,” said Cone. “I’ve had moments where I get off stage and people have come up to me crying with joy or overwhelmed with happiness just because I shared who I am with them.”

A feeling that was validated by Airman 1st Class Robert Kersten, an avionics technician assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, who attended one of Cone’s performances in support of his friend.

“The place fell silent as he hit his stride and erupted at the conclusion of his performance,” said Kersten. “I felt the emotion he put into his work. It brought things into perspective and made me realize how unique everyone’s story is.”

For Cone there is nothing quite so rewarding as the feeling he gets after he has inspired and touched others through his poetry.

“And as she gets older still, and leaves, she will love me for eternity. And my love for her will not waiver or falter, she is my daughter, and my love for her will not waiver, or falter, I am her father.”