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In the Land We Imagined Ourselves (Carnegie Mellon Poetry Series) Paperback – January 19, 2010
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Panoramic in sweep and tender in spirit, these poems whirl us across many American landscapes and zoom us into many livesfrom Wyatt Earps wifes to that of a grieving son. Johnson is a generous pathologist of the human heart who is careful to leave its mystery intact.
From the capital I of fenceposts to articulate crags
and the bird-like swoops of human talk, I love the
intelligent landscape this poet invents and perpetuates just ahead, as if from a car eternally heading west. Like Hugos Marginal Way, Jonathan Johnsons Upper Peninsula, his Idaho and Montana and Washington are really a brimming interior life, and these poems so often descriptive of motion and traveling enact the irresistible turns of a mind ever lively and shimmering.
About the Author
Jonathan Johnson is the author of the book of poems Mastodon, 80% Complete and the memoir Hannah and the Mountain. His poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, American Poetry: The Next Generation, and numerous other anthologies, as well as Southern Review, Ploughshares, North American Review, and Prairie Schooner. He is on the faculty of the Inland Northwest Center for
Writers, the MFA program at Eastern Washington University. Johnson divides his time between Washington, a cabin in Idaho, and the Lake Superior coastal town of Marquette, Michigan.
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He talks about nature and beauty, especially in Idaho, but mingles in the unexpected: the B52s, Art Garfunkel's hair, tattoo parlors, logging, fathers, sons, and cars.
From Third Street and the Stolen Boat:
Lampposts tattoo the short shadows of objectivity onto concrete.
Luminescence pierces the lip of every overhanging leaf.
The last of August, sunlit chill breeze and constant sparkle of university traffic again.
A skateboard double clacks the coronary insistence of adolescence...
A longer poem, a masterpiece entitled American Ballad, tells the imagined story of Josie and Wyatt Earp...an unorthodox retelling that plays with the concept of violence on and off the Frontier.
In New You, New Me, he speaks to his daughter Anya, in a poem she will surely treasure, where he recounts his teenage glory days but reveals the greater joy he's found, one that transcends youth:
May you too know singing along with the windows down,
air through your hair,
and the blossoming conviction that someone should be getting this on film.
...Go ahead, make yourself a self you'll be nostalgic for,
and may someone come and rescue you
the way you rescued me, on the pillow beside you telling my story...
Postcard with Black Rocks is my favorite of the collection. In it he talks about the details surrounded a beloved photograph of the blustery shore, taken at a favorite place he frequented:
Now I walk to the place
in the postcard alone, though not right now.
Not today I mean. It's winter there today.
And it's night. It looks nothing like this.
I loved that last line, because I know exactly what he means, although my postcard is different.