by Robert K. Johnson. 2001 71 pages. Impatiens Press, 50 North Street, Westford, MA, 01886-1279. impatiens.com
Book Review by Michael Basinski
Master poet Robert K. Johnson finds the poem in tiny, randomly occurring, seemingly common and meaningless moments of everyday life and in those moments poetry is vital, sensual and everywhere alive. He writes in his poem In Any Piece of Music, “it is always/a sequence// shorter/ than ten notes// that hold my breath/still as sunlight.” His lines are short and tight and governed by tried and tested life rhymes, like specific brush strokes he creates insight and refreshing, intense images. Some of the highest praise I image that can be granted to the art of poetry is the word YES. YES, I see and I understand. A moment that was otherwise passed and forgotten is preserved, pressed within the mind and savored endlessly. I find this word YES throughout Sudden Turnings and I am sure anyone who opens themselves to Robert K. Johnson’s poems will be intimately touched. For me, particularly, there is the poem, Sixteen? Eighteen? Years Afterwards.
So excited am I by this poem that I imaged that if I write it here it may be mine! Of course, it is not. But I offer this to you, this Robert K. Johnson poem in the sincere hope that you will burst open. The beginning lines of his poem Sixteen? Eighteen? Years Afterwards reads: you/emerging/from the rush/of waves and surf// flare in/my memory/like flower/petals.