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Donna Johnson

Carnegie Mellon Poetry Series

Carnegie Mellon
2013 • 96 pp. 5 1/2 x 8 1/2"

$15.95 Paperback, 978-0-88748-562-6

The debut collection of poems by Donna Johnson

Threaded with the colors and textures of the small-town South, this startling first collection by Donna Johnson opens up a world of unwashed secrets and messy truths, the sometimes unflattering iterations of “self” that emerge as a lifetime unspools. Through voices both imagined and real—“part cottonmouth; the other part, lark”—Johnson peoples this collection with debutantes, bigots, and busybodies, comprising a whole both shameless but often hidden, like selvage itself, “dense as nuclei / a dot for each color of the cloth / visible only if rent.”

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Reviews / Endorsements

Selvage, a precise yet uncommon word, refers to the self-finished edge that keeps fabric from fraying. Like that cloth, the girl-turned-woman we follow through these electrifying poems must weave strong edges for herself to keep from being pulled apart by others’ desires. She flirts dangerously with alternative selves—the prostituted woman, the fierce nun—to understand her body’s potential as it chafes against the proprieties of Southern white girlhood. Selvage sounds like salvage, too, the hardscrabble work of children seeking nourishment and mementos from the wreck of their past. Every poem digs up treasures of insight, words pungent as the air outside the tannery, ineradicable artifacts like the bullet in a slave woman’s unearthed spine—not always comfortable to contemplate, but satisfying as only the truth can be.”—Jendi Reiter

DONNA JOHNSON grew up in Tennessee, but now lives with her family outside of Boston. Her poems and reviews have been published or are forthcoming in Birmingham Poetry Review, Blue Unicorn, Café Review, Green Mountains Review, Marco Polo, Perihelion, Tulane Review, Two Rivers Review, and others. In 2010 she won Cutbank magazine’s annual poetry contest and was a finalist for the Patricia Dobler Award. She currently works in the educational software publishing field.

Fri, 12 Oct 2018 15:51:17 -0500