#6 – Fatal by Kimberly Johnson – 2022 Best Reads

I’ve gushed about Kimberly Johnson’s poetry on this blog before. Called Johnson “one of our best living poets.” Noted that she is “the rare poet who consistently evokes for me the presence of the barely-cloaked divine.” Credited her with making me a daily reader of poetry.

So when Johnson produced a new collection in 2022, I sought it out. She didn’t disappoint, though this collection comes as the fruit of a painful personal journey through the loss of her spouse and colleague, the poet Jay Hopler.

The conceit of the book is to investigate a word beginning with ‘F’ while also keeping in sight the tables that delineate causes of death in the United States. The result is poignant, raw, and beautiful.

As always there are the well-observed images that open whole worlds. As in ‘Farthingale’ (a hooped petticoat, I had to look it up), where she meditates on the wildness that is nurtured by stricture:

It’s the lid sets the teakettle rocking

At the boil,

The shell’s song the gunpowder sings.

In ‘Font’ she meditates on the constraints and loves of motherhood, renouncing the ‘extravagant, captious, chancy moon’ that would lure her away from helping a son with homework in the same way a penitent renounces sin at baptism–with an acknowledgement that it still retains it’s allure.

I’ll forsake

All that charismatic

Nonsense in the name of the son

And of the son and of the haloed glow

From that dim lamp

That holds us here as one, for now.

It’s beautiful and human without ever losing sight of the loss going on all the time. Something stated baldly in ‘F-word’:

How foolish I for fretting after silver

Linings, as if loss were not the principle

Of love.

Kimberley Johnson’s Fatal is #6 on this year’s list. For my podcast interview with her click here.

#7 – Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty

#8 – Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell

#9 – A Place Like Mississippi by W. Ralph Eubanks

#10 – Shaking the Gates of Hell by John Archibald

5 responses to “#6 – Fatal by Kimberly Johnson – 2022 Best Reads”

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