Christopher J Johnson | Interview

Kenneth P. Gurney. What got you started into poetry? What age?

Christopher J Johnson: I was in third grade the first time I remember writing a poem, but I didn’t write a lot of poetry until high school. I’m not sure what got me started in poetry, but I always had a love of reading.

KPG. What is your favorite breakfast?

CJJ: Coffee.

KPG. How much influence does your university degree(s) have on your writing of poetry and how?

CJJ: I’m not sure, I read a lot of poetry in college due to the exposure there and I discovered the idea of a reader through poetry workshops; these were important things to learn.

KPG. Is there any other endeavor that you are passionate about outside of poetry? How does it enrich you?

CJJ: I’m a member of the Meow Wolf art collective. I wrote a good deal of the story behind The House of Eternal Return and had worked on several of the previous projects including the popular Due Return which showed at the CCA in Santa Fe, NM. I am also the manager of photo-eye Bookstore which is quite something also… Too many things.

KPG. Tell us about one of your favorite poetry experiences.

CJJ:  I’m not really sure what to put here. Poetry is continually one of my favorite experiences, what I’ve read and been enriched by continues to be relevant in my daily life and I live with certain bits of poetry constantly in my head, “to go about leafy with questions,” for instance, seems continually to apply itself to me and to others – it comes to mind often if I see a question in someone’s face before they ask it, especially if they are a stranger.

KPG. Do you have a connection to the American Civil War? Relative who served? Visited a battlefield and have a story?

CJJ: I don’t I am adopted and my biological family immigrated from Lebanon in the late 60s or something. The folks who adopted me had later immigrants too, on both sides. Of course there is Walt Whitman and he is one of those continual poetry experiences I have, as well as several of the sources of some of those bits of poetry that are always coming to mind.

KPG. If you could wave a magic wand and place a poetry book into every high school english classroom as required reading, which one would it be and why?

CJJ: Perhaps something from the Romans, but not anything long and dry like all of Virgil, but rather an anthology of Roman Elegy with poems by Ovid, Catullus, Propertius and Tibullus and a bit of Martial added in on the side. Those guys, well Tibullus aside, had a very modern sense to them – they describe city scenes and rapidly forming and falling apart love affairs amped with a lot of gossip from the neighbors. On top of that, they often convey a deep suspicion of the gods and government, slander random acquaintances and make fun of pretty much everything, but, of course, their own miseries. If not that, anything by Etheridge Knight, maybe Belly Song and Other Poems.

KPG. Where was your last selfie taken?  With anyone?

CJJ: My last selfie was shot with the camera’s timer on my iPhone – so I hope it still counts – I was looking at a lot of Francesca Woodman at the time – I think it speaks for itself, so I’m including it as my author photo.  [see bio photo with his poems]

KPG. Recommend a poetry (or literary) website that you frequent.

CJJ:  The Poetry Foundation.

KPG. What is your favorite National Park? Why?

CJJ:  Well, Hyde State National Park – it is practically right down the road from me.

KPG. Do you have a dream that you work toward achieving. If so, please tell us about it.

CJJ:  Honestly, I had a few and I achieved them. Now I don’t know what to do. People tell me I should do more of those things, and I likely will, but nothing shiny new – no.

KPG. If there is a little known poet you think everyone should read, who is that poet and which book of theirs should we seek?

CJJ:  I could say so many names, but I think for the benefit of the language we’re working with here I will pick one that wrote in English; I would say two American Sonneteers from the 19th Century are quite unfortunately forgotten: Frederick Goddard Tuckerman and Trumbull Stickney.

KPG. If you could be present at any moment in history as a safe observer or unsafe participant, what event would you visit and why?

CJJ:  I would spend a Christmas Eve at Shakespeare’s house with him and his family. I think that would answer a lot of questions for me about him.

KPG. What reoccurring themes have you noticed in your poetry over the years?  Is there a point of personal experience you revisit often?

CJJ:  I try to avoid using any idiosyncratic personal experiences in my poetry, but my reoccurring experiences find their way into my poetry as a sort of primary subject matter: shaving, being with friends in a broader socio-sense, thinking about ancestor as species and brushing my teeth are constants in my work, as well as walking – maybe that is the most personal thing I keep bringing up in my poems because I don’t drive and walk almost everywhere I go. Other than that I have an obsession with the words face, stone, rock and earth and I also like to use the expression I don’t know (or, more increasingly, idk) a good deal more than is rational.

KPG. Green, Red or Christmas when you order Huevos Rancheros?

CJJ:  Red.


One thought on “Christopher J Johnson | Interview

  1. Meow Wolf, Holloween 2016–most imaginative–congratulations on some fine work. Etheridge Knight, the
    African American Indiana poet, right? I have read a few of his poems, but I will certainly revisit his stuff
    based on your recommendation … thanks.


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