Literature 3-17-2008

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Jennifer L. Johnson

Read this week's What Light winner, "Lexicon" by Jennifer L. Johnson, chosen by poet Todd Pederson.

Jennifer Johnson


He calls them boulder

problems, as if stones
were equations he could

solve with the rough tips
of fingers, as if stones spoke
that kind of language, as if
I could make sense of
a vocabulary of stone,
when belaying just sounds
like something I’d like
him to do to me.


As a nonfiction writer and poet interested in multiple art forms, I find a lot of richness in overlapping genres and media. For me, the only hard and fast rule in any form is that the work must be true, though in poetry, at least, the source of what I think of as “truth” can change from a poem’s genesis to its final form. Most often this shift is from the truth of lived experience to the poem’s own truth—what the poem wants to be. Because I’m also a perfectionist, my favorite part of the creative process—whether photography, printing, or writing—is revision.


Jennifer L. Johnson is a native of Kansas. She received her MFA in Literary Nonfiction from the University of Minnesota, where she served as the editor of Dislocate. Most recently she has been a recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant and a Gesell Summer Writing Fellowship. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Camas, Flint Hills Review, Flyway, Isotope, and other journals, and she has work forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review and The Fourth River. She lives with her husband in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she works as a dissertation editor for Walden University.

This week’s poetry and wine pairing:Vin de Vienne, Transhumance Faugeres

The name of this wine, Transhumance, was inspired by the migratory movement of our three wine-growing friends to the northernmost end of the Côtes du Rhône – the vineyards of Seyssuel, near the Languedoc. The word “transhumance” –whose roots lie in the Latin Trans and Humus – could be translated as ‘the land beyond lands’. Today, this word depicts a type of idyllic country life, representing one of the cornerstones of Provence identity. It conveys the ideas of an open spirit, peace, dreams and freedom.

A proprietary blend from the Languedoc this wines exudes power and structure. A blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah and 15% Mourvedre this wine is all about big fruit and firm tannin. Bright raspberry and tart cherry aerate from the nose with asian spice and cocoa lingering as well. Firm tannins that embrace the briary yet velvety red and blue fruit flavors. This wine seems to linger in the mouth forever. A fantastic bottling from Pierre Gaillard, Yves Cuilleron and Francois Villard!