poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

In 1951, Peter Johnson was born in Buffalo, New York. He received his BA from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and his MA and PhD in English from the University of New Hampshire. He is the winner of the 2001 James Laughlin Award for his second collection of prose poems, Miracles & Mortifications (2001).

His other books include Eduardo & "I" (White Pine, 2006), Pretty Happy! (1997), and the chapbook Love Poems for the Millennium (1998). He is also the author of a novel, What Happened (Front Street Books, 2007), as well as a collection of short stories, I'm a Man (2003).

Johnson is the founder and editor of The Prose Poem: An International Journal and the editor of The Best of The Prose Poem: An International Journal (White Pine Press, 2000).

About his work, the poet Bruce Smith has said, "Because Peter Johnson does not guide himself either by the turns and counterturns of verse or the horizontal urge of prose, he must continually reinvent the wheel and its destination. He writes with a lover's lavish extravagance and a yogi's self-discipline. His funny poems are heartbreaking and his serious ones are hilarious."

He received a creative writing award in 2002 from Rhode Council on the Arts and a fellowship in 1999 from the National Endowment for the Arts. A contributing editor to American Poetry Review, Web del Sol, and Slope, Peter Johnson teaches creative writing and children's literature at Providence College in Rhode Island, where he lives with his wife, Genevieve, and two sons, Kurt and Lucas.

Just Listen

Peter Johnson

I sit by the window and watch a great mythological bird go down in flames. In fact, it’s a kite the neighborhood troublemaker has set on fire. Twenty-one and still living at home, deciding when to cut through a screen and chop us into little pieces. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly,” his mother would say, as they packed our parts into black antiseptic body bags. I explain this possibility to the garbage men. I’m trying to make friends with them, unable to understand why they leave our empty cans in the middle of the driveway, then laugh as they walk away. One says, “Another name for moving air is wind, and shade is just a very large shadow”—perhaps a nice way to make me feel less eclipsed. It’s not working, it’s not working. I’m scared for children yet to be abducted, scared for the pregnant woman raped at knife point on the New Jersey Turnpike, scared for what violence does to one’s life, how it squats inside the hollow heart like a dead cricket. My son and his friends found a dead cricket, coffined it in a plastic Easter egg and buried it in the backyard. It was a kind of time capsule, they explained—a surprise for some future boy archeologist, someone much happier than us, who will live during a time when trees don’t look so depressed, and birds and dogs don’t chatter and growl like the chorus in an undiscovered Greek tragedy.

Copyright © 2006 by Peter Johnson. From Eduardo & I. Reprinted with permission of White Pine Press.

Copyright © 2006 by Peter Johnson. From Eduardo & I. Reprinted with permission of White Pine Press.

Peter Johnson

Peter Johnson

Born in Buffalo, New York, in 1951, Peter Johnson received the James Laughlin Award for his second collection of prose poems