Literature 8-25-2008

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Kelli Johnson

This week's winning What Light poem, "Mooring" by Kelli Johnson, was selected by acclaimed poet Carol Muske-Dukes.



The brand and the strike aren’t the only
things; what holds

could be history, the grip
of held, all its secrets.

The switch and the cudgel have ways
to make us stay longer

than we choose, not like
lucky with all its devotion, not

like awe and loving, airy tethers
to the world: sure, near.


I have recently been exploring themes of attachment and place, memory and loss. I wrote Mooring as a sort of love letter to human attachment. In it, I celebrate obligation, pain, love and good fortune, and the equal roles of each in tying us to the world, brutally or tenderly. The spare style is intended to give each word weight and gravity, to create small semantic anchors throughout the length of the poem. It is my hope to give the reader greater license for individual interpretation and attachment to the piece by offering an economy of words, by telling less of my own story.


Kelli Johnson was born in Abilene, Texas, where she first learned to love big talkers and good stories. She currently lives and writes in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Kelli has been a student at the Loft Literary Center, and she has recently completed a manuscript for a poetry collection, entitled Oil Field Trash. Mooring is her first published poem.