For your reading pleasure!
Personal essays, poetry, Information regarding upcoming poetry events and more:
For your reading pleasure!
Personal essays, poetry, Information regarding upcoming poetry events and more:
On January 7th, I decided to spend 50 days working on my next chapbook. Today is day #42. I have written 5 new poems since I started this journey.
I pause to remember when I picked up the pen. It was the summer of 1992 when I decided to write for public consumption. I’d always written for myself but after a few writing classes I started looking towards submitting my work. My first poem was published in the fall of 1992. Shortly afterwards, I stopped writing. I was promoted at my day job and took on a 100% travel assignment. I lived on the road, traveling from city to city, sleeping in hotel after hotel all across the USA.
It wasn’t long after that when I found myself living and traveling overseas for nearly 6 years. I came back to the USA, focused on family, raising 2 wonderful little girls and concentrating on my day job career.
In the Spring of 2013, I was home alone. My wife was traveling, the children grown and gone. I was watching a television show, “Elementary”, and the subject matter of that night’s episode’s caught my attention, my thoughts churned, I looked at the junk mail envelopes laying on the floor. ( I normally go through junk mail while watching TV)
I found a pen, picked up the junk mail envelopes and started writing on them. I wrote for 2 hours that night and that is when it all started again. I’ve been writing ever since.
Day #45 – Rejection Letters
It doesn’t feel good when you receive a rejection letter. It hurts more when you put your heart into the work. It’s like going to the jewelers, doing research on the best ring at the best price your little bit of money can buy, purchasing it, then arranging dinner at a fancy restaurant for two. You arrive, everything’s in place, she’s impressed, you bow, you present the ring, you pop the question…
…and she says, “No.”
That’s how receiving a rejection letter feels sometimes. It hurts more when you don’t know why. You don’t know if you work sucked or if it came close to being considered or was it somewhere in between.
This not a rant because I emphasize with publishers. They don’t have the money to staff up. I get it. Then again if my worked sucked I probably wouldn’t want to hear that feedback anyway.
Most times I brush a rejection off, like brushing a ladybug off my shoulder. Sometimes though, it does hurt. Nonetheless, like that rejected proposer, I close that ring box, finish my meal, kiss her goodnight and bid her farewell.
I keep the ring though. I take it to the jeweler, refine it and make it ready for the next time!
Never stop submitting your work because you received a rejection letter.
On January 7th, I decided to spend 50 days working on my next chapbook. Today is day #47. I have been working diligently on a new piece titled “Pillars Salt, Pillars Stone”. I’m submitting it to Rattle Respond tonight. If accepted, rights will return to me just in time for my book release.
I love this piece and I do believe that it represents some of my best work. I did a lot with punctuation in this piece. I normally don’t use punctuation but lately I have been thinking about using it a lot. What really helped me decide was my taking a look at several poems in said magazine and noticed punctuation in a lot of the poems that the magazine contained. I thought to myself, hmmm, perhaps for this journal and others, my lack of punctuation is holding me back.
I tried adding punctuation to “Pillars Salt, Pillars Stone” and I liked how the poem flowed. It looked good. I felt like I was letting the reader know when to slow down, when to pause, when to stop and when to start up again.
I feel like I will be using more punctuation for certain works in the future. We’ll see. I’m done with “Pillars Salt, Pillars Stone” for now. Time to rest. I will rest for a day or two, read someone else’s work while I’m resting, watch one of my favorite television shows, etc. After rest, I will pick up the proverbial pen again. See you at my next post.
The Next Fifty Days
Over the course of the next fifty days I will be working on a new chapbook. Initially, I’d planned on relaunching my first chapbook. My thoughts are leaning towards an entirely different approach now. The chapbook will not be a relaunch. I will focus on writing a new chapbook.
The chapbook will contain:
—poems published by other journals -poems whose rights have returned to me.
—poems which I call “people’s favorites “- poems not published but enjoyed at a variety of public poetry events as well as liked in my website/blog.
—new poems newly written and material already written but never shared
Finally, I may add a personal essay or two. Wish me well as I embark upon this journey. I will post updates periodically.
Chicago deep dish
pizza at legendary
From the Business Travel Log
Part V – Riding the Double Decker
My plane makes a long downwind track past the Whitestone bridge before making a longer arc to face the runway. I think about a long journey I took in 1995 from Krasnoyarsk to Moscow.
The plane from Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, to Moscow was not a puddle jumper. It was a huge double decker Russian airliner. It was not the most modern of airliners but it was modern enough. My translator, Sergey, and I rode in first class.
“Jerry, how are you feeling”, asked Sergey.
“This toothache is killing me”, I replied.
“When we get to Moscow we can get some good medicine for you”, said Sergey.
“Zdravstvujtye, chto-nibud’ vypit “, said the handsome lady elegantly dressed in the blue, and white uniform with the long purple velvety scarf draped around her neck.
“I know what she said Sergey. What’s on that cart she’s pushing? I see vodka. Wait, what’s in that tall brown bottle?”
Sergey looks at the cart. “That’s Cognac.”
“French?”, I respond.
“Okay, Jerry, it’s Brandy.
The young lady pops the top of the Brandy after Sergey asks for it. My toothache is pounding.
“Nyet”, I tell her, “just give me the bottle”, I say.
She understood. Her eyes met my grimace. She winced.
Her language quickly switched to English, “Sir, I hope you feel better soon.”
“Spasiba Bolshoi”, I responded.
“Pozhaluysta”, she replied, smiling.
Hearing the wheels of my aircraft lock down awakens me from my daydream of memories.
“We are on our final approach to LaGuardia, please put your seats in the upright position with seatbelts buckled and your tray tables stowed” boomed the flight attendant over the intercom.
I comply. I look out my aircraft window at beauty, I marvel at nature, my heart is thankful, my mind is at peace, my hands are steady, my feet are grounded , my emotions contemplate joy. We touch down. Spasiba Bolshoi, we arrive.
After seeing the New York Knicks in the news this week:
David Fizdale fired: Knicks fire coach after 4–18 start – Sports Illustrated. I decided to write this poem:
I Remember the 1970 Knicks
it was May eighth, nineteen seventy
our little black and white television
blankly stared at my brother and i
we sat we turned staring at each other
Okay, I’ll turn it on”, i said, i stand up
i take three steps, turn on the power
i return to my seat, we stare hopefully
will it turn on this time? please turn on
we named our television ‘sometimey”
sometimes it would power up and work
unfortunately, most times it would not
and tonight was special; it had to work
it was game seven NBA championship
the Los Angeles Lakers were playing
against the New York Knickerbockers
Madison Square Garden in the city
to our surprise, wonder and glee
our little black and white TV was on
and we were on— I adjusted the hanger
a clothes hanger subbed for our antenna
my brother pulled for the Knicks
i was a Lakers fan, loved Wilt and West
my brother loved Reed, who was injured
haha, my team was destined to win
the speakers on my little tube vibrated
i was in shock at sound from the crowd
pre game Madison Square Garden rocked
my brother smiled, i waxed concerned
suddenly, out of the tunnel Reed appears
dressed to play, the cheers the crowd
my television speakers cry and dance
my brother grins, my forehead creases
tip off, Knicks ball, a hobbling Reed scores
the crowd is insane my brother jumps up
i sit, I feel sweat forming beneath my Afro
have the Lakers and i just lost our nerve
Reed leaves but he was quite symbolic
at that point i meet a man named Frazier
a few feet past half court he posts
he aims at the basket, he scores
he scores the same way over and over again i stand and scream stop him
no one in the garden hears me I’m angry
my brother, falling to the floor, is laughing
game over, Frazier thirty six points
injured Reed, most valuable player
my brother is happy, i look at him
i smiled then and i smile now as
i wish for better days for the Knicks again
#sports #knicks #jerrytjohnsonpoet
My Writing Projects
Part I – My First Poetry Submission
I started writing for public consumption in the summer of 1992. I submitted my first set of poems to Catalyst Magazine at the end of August and at the end of September I received an acceptance letter for one of the poems (title: “I Be A Bad Dude”).
Receiving an acceptance letter on my very first poetry submission was a fabulous experience for me. I was high on cloud nine and was ready to write some more. I received a small grant for writing from my home state of South Carolina and I was sure that I was on my way to a big writing career.
Things changed at the day job. I worked in computer operations at a regional head office of a Fortune 500 company. I ran batch jobs, backups, restores, downloaded and uploaded data to hundreds of machines, ran tons of reports and troubleshot problems.
Writing was just one of my part time jobs. “Wait, you had a full time job, wrote part time and had another part time gig also?”, you say. Yes. In addition to the day job and writing I also worked in a microfiche production shop on weekends. My calendar was full.
As I said before, things changed at the day job. A Corporate I/T Manager from corporate headquarters visited my site one week. He checked out how efficient I was in meeting my production quotas but he also checked out my writing.
“What’s that laying on the table over there?”, he asked.
End of Part I – stay tuned for Part II – What Was That Laying On the Table?
Charlotte to New York – Part III
travel log for a travel blog
The voice of the conductor booms over our train’s intercom. “Attention passengers! This is a sold out train. Please remove all bags, coats, hats and luggage from the empty seat next to you so that passengers coming onboard can have a seat. I repeat this is a sold out train, this is a sold out train!”
We are in Selma, North Carolina, population less than seven thousand, which hosts the “Selma Railroad Day” festival annually. The festival celebrates the railroad heritage of Selma, NC, including parades, music, vendors and food. Though as a young man I had negative experiences with the Klan in towns near to Selma I focus on the positive about this place. The red caboose that sits outside of the train station adds a little artistry to the place.
By the way, the seat next to me is totally empty. My luggage is stowed in the overhead. A little elderly lady approaches.
“Is that seat free?”, she asks.
I reply, “Yes, it is. Can I help you with your bags?”
“Thank you, would you?”
All bags stowed, both of us seated, she asks: “Where are you traveling to?”
“New York; and you?”
“Baltimore”, she replies…and a warm conversation begins.