POET INTERVIEW – ELIZABETH JOHNSON
Poets tend to saturate their writing with what they feel in the depths of their soul. Elizabeth Johnson is the epitome of this commonality. One need only read a small sampling of her work and interactions before nodding the head in realization that Elizabeth is a very devout Christian, who delights in sharing faith and encouragement through her words.
Besides being a talented writer, she also has musical talent. She has been playing the piano since she was only six years old. She plays regularly at her church, and occasionally accompanies for weddings, funerals, and vocal programs. In addition, she dabbles with the organ and harmonica (Iain, take note!).
Add to all of this a corny sense of humor I can relate to! Here is one of my all-time favorites:
I was all ears,
awaiting the kernel
of truth promised
in that husky voice,
nearly popping with
suspense as he stalked
around it, fielding my
questions of a-maize-ment:
but, shucks, too many
cornpuns spoil the
corn; that’s a grain
of truth in itself.
© Elizabeth Johnson
MARIE ELENA: Elizabeth, that made me smile “ear to ear!” 😉 Now that I’ve shared one of my favorites, I’d like you to pick one of your own, and explain to us what made you choose that particular poem.
ELIZABETH: First of all, a huge thanks to Marie & Walt – not only for creating and keeping up the great PB site, and fostering a place for a wonderful community, but also giving me this great opportunity. I feel so honored, especially after being chosen for a “beautiful bloom” last weekend! I’m still smiling!
He holds you
and me, and the earth-
in His boundless hands.
He grasps infinity with
© Elizabeth Johnson
I am a word person. I love manipulating language to discover multiple layers and express multiple meanings (and I absolutely love wordplays). Syllables, line breaks, the sound and the feel of each word – these things fascinate me. And the conciseness and brevity of the shadorma strongly appeals to me. I love the challenge of trying to say so much in just 26 syllables. You can’t waste any of those syllables, or the meaning changes. You need just the right word to add depth and richness to its message. You need just the right sound to give it rhythm.
And the shadorma is perfect for painting word pictures. I love to write about single moments, little vignettes of personal experience. Things I’ve lived, or learned, or loved. For instance, this poem speaks of something I’ve learned – the contrast between my own insignificance as a mere created thing, and the infinitude and care of the great Creator for His creation. And all in 26 syllables! (Thanks to Walt & Marie for providing the photo prompt for that one!)
MARIE ELENA: Yes, you and I are alike in that way as well, Elizabeth – our love of poems that pack a wallop in few words.
I noticed that the name of your personal blog is quite unusual: Dog Fur and Dandelions. There MUST be a story there! “Dandelions” is in your poetry blog title (Dandelion Digest) as well. Are they meaningful in some way?
ELIZABETH: I know my blog title seems random, and it really is. We have a husky-shepherd mix who sheds incessantly! I am forever finding clumps of dog fur everywhere… and when I was brainstorming for a name that people would remember, the dog fur was particularly ubiquitous. And so now my dog is forever immortalized on the internet.
As for the dandelions – they themselves don’t hold much personal meaning, although I do love their cheerful color! But I also like how they symbolize perspective. Adults see them as weeds; kids see them as magical wish-makers; and herbalists see them as medicine. It all depends on the perspective of the viewer. And I hope to offer a distinct perspective to the world, as I share my views of life – to be a dandelion, in a way.
MARIE ELENA: Elizabeth, I’ll never think of dandelions in the same way again. Wonderful observations!
You have a blog entry devoted to Twitter. I am not on Twitter, and don’t really know anything about it. You mention Becky Robinson’s “31 Days of Twitter Tips,” which seems to have made an impression on you. Does Twitter help you as a writer? Do you think anyone trying to build a “platform” necessarily needs Twitter in their bag of tricks?
ELIZABETH: Twitter helps build connections, which is crucial to any field. If people know you, they’ll want what you have to offer. But the key is to engage them – ask questions, respond to their questions, share what they have to offer, not just your own work. Twitter is an ideal place for that, and Becky Robinson’s book explains how you can do that in just 12 minutes a day – which makes it worth doing, for anyone who has something to offer. (By the way, be sure to get the book while it’s still free!)
MARIE ELENA: I know you are a published author. Please tell us what you have available “out there.”
ELIZABETH: I have had both poetry and devotionals published in several non-profit newsletters over the past 15 years (although most of them are out of print by now). I also had a poem published in the January 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest, and three poems published in Prompted, which was released earlier this year by a group of friends from Poetic Asides.
I do hope to get a few books published someday, and actually have one being considered by a publisher right now! I also have an ebook in the works, which will hopefully be released in the next few months.
MARIE ELENA: Very impressive, Elizabeth! Please do keep us posted.
Two words: Invisible illness. I know they mean a great deal to you.
ELIZABETH: In April 2007, I was diagnosed with a rare form of vasculitis, Wegener’s Granulomatosis. Like cancer, it can go into remission with proper treatment, but can return at any time. I look fairly normal to the average observer, but my energy and immune system (both invisible things) are incredibly weakened by the disease. I can no longer work outside the home, exercise regularly, or volunteer for everything I’d like to do. But on the other hand, it’s allowed me to re-discover writing and other creative endeavors, that I’d never have time for otherwise. And I probably would never have met you all, or resumed writing poetry or started blogging, if I were still healthy!
MARIE ELENA: Your attitude and drive are amazing, Elizabeth. Walt honored you with a “Bloom” for a poem you had written in response to Prompt #67, in which he had asked us to write about a personal accomplishment. You chose to write about Wegener’s in your inspiring piece entitled, “I Go On.”
I Go On.
Could be fatal, they said.
And there I lay, diseased and
missing half my blood – it had
disintegrated, gone away,
lifeblood no longer life.
Could be treated, they said.
And there I prayed; and took
one pill, one prayer, one day
by itself – baby steps when
I could barely walk at all.
Could improve, they said.
And there I leapt, yet leaning
on another and Another;
his arms, his legs – working for mine;
His strength working for mine.
Could recur, they said.
And there I wept, afraid to
live for fear that fears would live.
And there I paused.
But then, so tired of the waiting,
the not living–
Could go on! I said.
And there I grew, aware
that life was made to live,
and thrive – and I was made
to fight, and go on living.
© Elizabeth Johnson
MARIE ELENA: HOOAH! What is it like to be the wife of an army man? What are the advantages, and what are the downfalls?
ELIZABETH: One word: unpredictability! The unofficial motto is, “nothing’s ever definite until it happens.” So flexibility and adaptability are huge. It is certainly difficult dealing with chronic illness and military life, but it gives us a perspective on life that many couples don’t understand. (There’s that word again – perspective). Quite simply, we cherish our moments together more than most civilian couples ever could, because we know firsthand how fleeting and uncertain they are. And our relationship is deeper and sweeter for all the tears and difficulties we face with military life.
MARIE ELENA: “Nothing’s ever definite until it happens.” My son found that to be the case in the Navy as well. Once again I see that admirable attitude of yours, Elizabeth. You are such an inspiration.
ELIZABETH: God created me, suffered for me, forgave and redeemed me, and daily sustains me. And thus my life belongs to Him alone. And as I trust His perfect love for me, I find sweet peace and joy no matter what my circumstances are. His grace is more than enough for anything I face in this world, and I find rest and assurance in that. He is my rock, my sure foundation, my eternal hope.
MARIE ELENA: Along those lines, I love the devotional section of your blog. Though you have published devotionals, you also choose to provide these free on your site. Do you consider this a ministry? What are your intentions/dreams in this realm?
ELIZABETH: Thank you! It most definitely IS a ministry opportunity, and one I am thrilled to have. My greatest passion is proclaiming God’s Word to others, and my blog – and upcoming books – allow me to do just that. It’s something I tremendously enjoy doing, but it’s also an avenue that I hope will lead to greater writing opportunities in the future. But I started where I could, with what I had, instead of just waiting for that “big opportunity” to present itself. And along the way, and however far this road takes me, I pray that my words will encourage and show Jesus Christ to those whom I would never otherwise meet. God has given me so much spiritually – how can I keep it all to myself?
MARIE ELENA: What affect does your faith have on your “muse?”
ELIZABETH: Since God has so richly blessed me, how can I keep from singing His praises? When I am particularly impressed by the beauty of His creation, or awed by how He has directed my life, or overwhelmed by His greatness and His love – that’s when my muse finds words. And I love how He – the original Author of life, who created the world with a word – allows me to create beauty with words.
MARIE ELENA: Beautiful. Just beautiful.
Now, as I end all my interviews, if there was only one thing we could know about you, what would you tell us?
ELIZABETH: For to me, to live is Christ. Because I was made for His enjoyment, and my ultimate purpose is found in pleasuring Him.