Johnson has loved Kansas poetry for decades. This has led her to
read widely, pursue an MFA, and also to write reviews of regional and
national poets. She wrote insightful, thorough reviews for the Kansas
City Star for fifteen years. Now she edits the New Mexico Review
in her new home of Santa Fe. Another aspect of her poetic skill set is
her background in visual arts, with art history as an undergraduate
One of my own
delights in poetry is visual images, and Johnson describes colors
especially well. In “End of August,” I enjoy the cat’s “sapphire eyes,”
but the poet expands the image further to include “sharp points” and
“all twilight.” These detail the eyes as faceted, like a jewel, and
dark, dark blue, like the evening sky. Other words that evoke colors are
moon, sunflower, yellow, bluebirds, goldfinches, and black-eyed susans.
This is a good poem for students of poetry to read, because of the use
of specifics—the plants are ragweed, candelaria, sunflowers, mulberry,
and black-eyed susans to emphasize season and well as sensual presence.
This also illustrates how poets research specificity when writing. Good
poets do as much fact checking as journalists. Exactly what birds,
animals, and plants herald the end of summer. This is more than fine
description and revival of a scene. The last line transforms details
into a theme: survival.
End of August
Tonight, while the
its dark side,
the Siamese tom
black velvet paws,
claws splayed toward a
he hunts, sapphire
focused to sharp
concentrated in his
Stealthy as a shadow,
a creek-bank jungle
giant ragweed, candelaria,
Yellow mulberry leaves
litter the lawn.
From low branches,
bluebirds dive for
Goldfinches search for
in black-eyed susans.
Baby cottontails munch
in tall grass.
Quick eyes everywhere.
Kathleen Johnson graduated from Olathe High School and attended the
University of Kansas for a BFA in Art History (1985) and an MFA in
Creative Writing (2008).
book Burn (Woodley 2009) was a 2009 Kansas Notable Book. As a
freelance book critic specializing in poetry, she published more than
sixty book reviews in The
Kansas City Star (2002-2009).
New Mexico Poetry Review
©2010 Denise Low AAPP 44 ©2010 “End of August” and photo by Kathleen