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Bindweed, Poems by Leah Johnson
Each poem in Bindweed is a step towards release and transcendence. Transposing the dark notes of childhood abuse that reverberated for decades, the author discovers new ways of seeing and being that pay homage to the holy in humanity and in nature.
"Leah Johnson's heartbreakingly fresh and courageous debut collection, Bindweed, chronicles the lives of the very small as they relate to the enormous and towering. The speaker stands between those polarities, sometimes playing both, or in the middle ground: "Like a stranger, I slay the paniculate/ to a bundle of sticks, attack the oak leaf/ from the rear, leaving only its two /front branches on fire in the sunlight." Thus the knowledge of these slayings-all we kill so we can live-and the guilt they bring up, is counterpointed by a religious gratitude, where each little taking becomes a sacrament. On the opposite pole, the speaker alludes, as well, to what has been ravaged by hugeness, taken from us blindly, the way the bindweed strangles and kills. Yet within these stories, there lies a lyrical wholeness, a line slowly bending to a circle, as in the marvelous sequence "My Deaths" and in the musical references and settings spread throughout the collection. The poetry of Bindweed acknowledges and carefully untangles truths; it seeks to dig and find what can be salvaged in one's own garden, and it is work which Leah Johnson undertakes so meticulously, so lovingly. Such a voice evokes the plain Kansas speech of William Stafford and the spiritual poise of Jane Hirschfield. In the masterful poem, "Eclipse," she writes: "I started drawing circles to contain/myself, to keep from bleeding/out." A poem is a container against the kind of chaos she describes. Often I get the feeling she is writing not only to save her own life, but my own."--David Keplinger, author of The Long Answer: New and Selected Poems
"Leah Johnson's collection of poems Bindweed is a revelation of and for the senses and a deeply etched portrait of a woman's life. Open to any page and you will find lines that resound in the ear and in the heart: "To be born to something new /is to be charged with holiness." This sense of awe and transcendence lives even through the most desperate of experiences, the child who is abused, the dreams that mean "Each night the pillow / of fear. Each night a small death." The poet's eye is alive to nature's cycles and accepts the harsh realities: "Survivor, predator,/we are born upon the wave./Images float and bob like buoys./The green sea is roiling./We are born upon the wave,/our darkness fierce and simmering." This is a book to savor and imbibe."-- Deirdre Neilen, editor of The Healing Muse
"Leah Johnson's Bindweed is a collection of poems that stay with you long after reading, regenerating just like the roots of its namesake. Original, unsettling and yet also flickering with beauty and hope, Johnson's poems are knotted with fortitude, each line tugged up from underground until exposed. This is a brave collection, disturbing and yet still laced with the beauty of the bindweed vine's resilient white trumpet flowers."-- Denise Orenstein, author of Unseen Companion
"Leah Johnson's poems move toward the light, suffusing the pages of her exceptional new book, Bindweed. This luminous quality is earned through struggle with trauma she faces and defuses. She tells us in "The Goldfinch," the book's final poem, that beauty sustains us, "how we can get down on our knees/peer into the dark and retrieve it". These poems rescue a world."-- Judith Bowles, author of Unlocatable Source
ISBN 978-1625493798, 102 pages, $19.00