Poetry. Paper, Perfect Bound. 58 pages
2021, ISBN: 978-1-952781-02-5
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Wrong ticks on, and it feeds on silence. In her book, when animals are animals, Betsy Johnson refuses to be “the quietest person in the world.” She names where the teeth are, gets closer to the kick she knows is coming, and makes her weary spirit take up the empty rucksack, because there is work to be done. That is the work of standing up to the “cloud monster,” of being an antidote, of finding hope in a knot of stones.
Praise for Betsy Johnson’s when animals are animals:
Betsy Johnson’s tightly-crafted and deeply-courageous third book of poetry, when animals are animals, walks straight into the dark forest where the violent prey on “the sunfish/ as innocent/ as your daughter” or “the dead chicken in the garbage can” that’s been pecked to death by the others. In poems that speak the truth of parables, we see that the meek who inherit this earth governed by the “cloud monster” are, more often than not, women, children, and animals. Johnson charts the difficulties of being a woman and a mother who knows what awaits her own children in a world too often governed by the vision of “the people [who] sit with guns” In so doing, she offers no easy answers, but rather a hard won truth: “a bunny with unopened eyes./ a lawn mower./ the grass is as green as it’s ever been./ there’s work to be done.” That work is quietly pushing back against the misogyny, cruelty, and seeming capriciousness of the “cloud monster” and all who enable him. Thankfully, we have the gift of Betsy Johnson’s supple and wise lyric poems to call us back, to help us find a way home. With her agile and stunningly beautiful new collection to guide us like a prayer, we may indeed yet survive. – Peter Grandbois, author of The Gravedigger
In the cloud monster
state, everyone lives in the slow approach
of static. fork. lighting. monster monster
on the loose. hello stubborn ransack
of quiet, radioactive aftermath. the best cock-
tail to sip in the destruction: the grab-bang
with its dash of bitters and spritz of deflower.
the clock on the stove is wrong. wrong ticks
on. the cloud monster is not a chicken you
can put in a roasting pan. it’s never done. the
cloud monster’s a welcome mat to surgery. knives—
real. the ether—a weapon. tendrils. sleep, sleep.
About Betsy Johnson
Betsy Johnson’s work has appeared in The Iowa Review (online), Commonweal, Prairie Schooner, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Boulevard. Her work has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, and she has been a finalist in the National Poetry Series Competition. She teaches English and Communication classes at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University in Minnesota, and she has her own yoga and meditation website at willowyogaminnesota.com. This is her third book published by Mayapple Press.