Terry S. Johnson & January Gill O’Neil

Thursday, November 6, 2014, at 7:00 pm, poets Terry S. Johnson and January Gill O’Neil will continue the eighth season of the Collected Poets Series. Mocha Maya’s Coffee House, 47 Bridge St, Shelburne Falls, MA. ($2-5 suggested donation)

Terry S. Johnson  [Photo credit: Jennifer Schumacher]

Terry S. Johnson
[Photo credit: Jennifer Schumacher]

The first born of a Chicago World War II airman and a Southern Belle who met at a USO dance in Little Rock, Terry S. Johnson was raised in the New York City metropolitan area, attended music conservatories in the Midwest and settled in western Massachusetts.  Johnson has explored careers as a newspaper advertising clerk, a library reference assistant and a professional harpsichordist before serving as public school teacher for twenty-five years.  She has traveled extensively in Europe, Asia and northern Africa including two summers as a volunteer English teacher in the Republic of Georgia.  She earned her M.F.A. in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.  Her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies including the Chest Journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association, The Cancer Poetry Project, Peregrine, Slipstream, Technoculture, Theodate, and others.  Coalescence is her first book published by WordTech Communications this year.  Poet Gail Thomas writes, “In this wide-ranging collection Terry S. Johnson curious mind scats, riffs and muses.  Her unique juxtaposition of images creates lines that fly from galaxies to simple machines, from sonatas to a lizard’s tail.  With wit and irony, these poems demonstrate Johnson’s canny use of musicality and movement.”  You can find Johnson’s website at:  http://www.terrysjohnsonpoet.com

January Gill O'Neil  [Photo credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths]

January Gill O’Neil
[Photo credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths]

January Gill O’Neil is the author of Misery Islands (fall 2014) and Underlife (2009), both published by CavanKerry Press. She is the executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and an assistant professor of English at Salem State University.

January’s poems and articles have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, New England Review, Paterson Literary Review, Rattle, Ploughshares, Sou’Wester, North American Review, The MOM Egg, Crab Creek Review, Drunken Boat, Crab Orchard Review, Callaloo, Literary Mama, Field, Seattle Review, and Cave Canem anthologies II and IV, among others. Underlife was a finalist for ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award, and the 2010 Paterson Poetry Prize. In December 2009, January was awarded a Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grant. She was featured in Poets & Writers magazine’s January/February 2010 Inspiration issue as one of its 12 debut poets. A Cave Canem fellow, she runs a popular blog called Poet Mom (http://poetmom.blogspot.com/).

Previously, January was a senior writer/editor at Babson College. She earned her BA from Old Dominion University and her MFA at New York University. She lives with her two children in Beverly, Massachusetts.


29 ½ DAYS / Terry S. Johnson

Before consonants, before vowels,
marks on wood, on bone, on cave
walls. Petrified, fossilized, faded.

Time to forage, to fornicate,
but when to migrate, to fish,
to feast without fear of famine?

Woman carries a calendar
at center, the egg’s monthly
exit spectacular. Man cannot

bleed like this and survive.
When her flow does not
return, her belly swells.

Man searches for other signs.
The celestial count begins.
Sun scars the eyes’ acuity

and weakens them for hunting.
Hail, Moon! Your mountains
and maria marvelous to behold!

Estimate the exact day of fullness,
followed by shadow’s curve.
A reckoning, a calculus, Newton

had not yet conceived. Keep track,
carve lines. Friction sparks intelligence,
fires the mind. Millennia later

we tap words on plastic keys,
unaware of north from south,
gibbous from crescent or croissant.

We melt grandfather’s pocket watch
for gold, honor an invisible atom’s
pulse. Cesium’s ceaseless sashay.


DENIM / January Gill O’Neil

Alone in the basement,
I take off my pajama bottoms
and slide warm denim
from the dryer over my thighs.
They unfurl like a blue flag
tighter than I remember,
hanging lower and snugger
around my hips than before.
This is how 42 feels: authentic,
comfortable, dangerously curvy,
a little distressed along the pockets.
I run my hands over the weft and weave
smooth the creases over the inseam,
that junction between the invisible and visible
at the intersection of the crotch.
The long cursive of my legs
is my signature. Blessed be
the soap and hard water
that makes it all come clean.
Like fallen halos,
white rings of snow salt
once around my cuffs
tumbled away in turbulence,
my past sins absolved.
Everything smells April fresh,
of mountain breezes and waterfalls.
My body retrofits to these grooves and furrows,
and the selvage that never fades.