Monday, December 08, 2008
by Robert K. Johnson
Cervena Barva Press, W. Somerville, MA
Copyright © 2008 by Robert K. Johnson
Review by Zvi A. Sesling
The Shakers gave us a song, “Simple Things.” Robert K. Johnson, a retired professor of English at Suffolk University in Boston, MA, and submissions editor of Ibbetson Street Magazine gives us a chapbook of deceptively simple poems. Johnson is an astute observer of people and situations. He also gives them simple titles: “Listening To Three Women At The Next Table,” “To The Person Who Phones Me Every Morning But Never Speaks.” Don’t think those are simple titles, how about: “At The Pond,” “Turning Twelve” or “To Be Sixteen.” Even simpler are “Older” and “Karen.”
These poems and seventeen more are easy to read, pleasing, and will make you think. Take “Turning Twelve”:
Her legs so much of all of her
she seems too tall for her body;
her chest with no hint yet of breasts;
her arms often just in her way;
her hair, though washed and combed,
still dull as this term’s science class;
her eyes aware her classmates’ glances
measure her up and down:
she has no idea how brave she is.
Zvi Sesling is a regular reviewer for the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene. His own poetry has appeared widelt in the small press.
It is one to think about. Remember when you were twelve? Boy or girl, you had to walk into that class and meet the looks of others and you wondered what they were thinking of you. Or was that smile really a smirk. And what does hair have to do with a science class. Johnson has his view, what’s yours?
This, of course, is not Johnson first book of poetry. He has put out seven books, including his most recent From Mist To Shadow (2007). In addition he has two books of nonfiction.
However, in Flowering Weeds Johnson can turn things on themselves, bring back memories of things you had thought long forgotten, even though they are not about you.
That’s Johnson’s unique talent. The poems might be about him, a 16 year-old, weather
and other subjects, yet you will find yourself associating with these simple gems.
In “At The Pond” for example, Johnson writes “Most calming/of all/is the sound/you don’t hear/when you watch a duck/paddling toward you.” It’s so true, yet have you ever thought it about? Can you see it now? That’s the magic of Robert K. Johnson.