Poets are rarely thought of as activists, and poems—especially poems that align with societal shortcomings—rarely go hand-in-hand with current political cycles. Not so Imperfect Echoes, a collection of poetry from Carolyn Howard-Johnson.
Inspired by Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz’s poem “Incantation” that lauds the power of human reason over the recurring and seemingly insane political realities, Howard-Johnson holds out hope but is not persuaded by trends that seem worse now than they were in Milosz’s time. A student of Suzanne Lummis, UCLA poetry instructor and the Fresno School of Poetry fronted by US poet laureate Philip Levine, she touches on the isms of the world—racism, ageism, even what might be termed “wallism” but was once referred to as xenophobia. In her poem “Crying Walls,” she sounds a low warning reminiscent of Robert Frost: “Chains linked. Wire barbed,/ Krylon smeared. Feeble,/ useless, unholy billboards,/ anything but mending walls.”
Readers will find some humor in this book and much that was informed by Howard-Johnson’s travels totaling some 85 countries including a sestina that she wrote when she was studying writing in St. Petersburg, Russia, and this poem that Pope Francis might like originally published in Penwomanship:
Sweet Potato Man sits
on the tailgate of his battered
pick-up, parked near the road
that tracks Antigua’s shore
waiting for someone to pay
for his crop. Nearly black-baked
by the Carib heat as he, sweet
potatoes lie on a blanket like twists
of dark yarn.
Like a flower drawn to the sun,
Sweet Potato Man turns his face
toward traffic. Crumpled, brown
as a prune it is. Languid he is.
Waiting. His legs dangle from his perch,
limp, puppet limbs. Shoulders hunch,
sweat glints on his cheeks, his eyes
white buttons. I sense he wants
me to stop, knows
I will pass him by.
Richard Conway Jackson who is serving twenty-five years to life in California for receiving stolen property lent his artwork, which can be seen in other poetry books including those by Jendi Reiter, for the cover and interior illustrations.
Permission is granted to republish poems or excerpts from this book as long as they are credited to Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of Imperfect Echoes.
Purchase Imperfect Echoes on Amazon. All proceeds will be donated to Amnesty International.
About Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s poetry appears frequently in review journals. She is listed inPoets & Writers’ highly respected catalog of poets and her chapbook of poetry, Tracings (www.bit.ly/CarolynsTracings), published by Finishing Line Press was given the Award of Excellence by the Military Writers Society of America. She is an award-winning novelist and short story writer, was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts, and honored by members of the California Legislature as Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment.
You’ll find more information on her poetry at including her Celebration Series of chapbooks coauthored Aussie Magdalena Ball at http://howtodoitfrugally.com/poetry_books.htm.
Download a media kit for Howard-Johnson from the media room athttp://howtodoitfrugally.com.
Check out Carolyn’s other visit on Plain Talk here.