Almost a year after her first self-published book hit the market, Canadian poet Terry-Lynn Johnson is debuting her latest collection of poetry at the Nipigon Public Library on Sept. 23.
Titled Driftwood Tones: Nature Poetry of Beauty and Presence, her poetry blends the romanticism of William Blake and John Keats and the contemporary styles of Atticus and Leonard Cohen.
Coining the term to describe her poetry as contemporary romanticism, Johnson's theme throughout the book is presence. Her poetry conjures the natural beauty of the North Shore using wildlife imagery to convey the sombreness of everyday life while also reflecting on overcoming life's challenges.
Johnson sat down with SNnewswatch for an interview about crafting her book and her upcoming events.
Q: What are some of the strategies you use to get yourself into writing?
Johnson: Well, like I've been writing pretty well every morning because I'm not working right now or teaching right now. I've been pretty well writing a bit every morning, but I'm always researching, reading other people, and researching philosophies and such.
I came across Alan Watt, which I kind of endorsed because he said that writing is both spontaneous and a discipline. I kind of endorse that because what I'll do is I'll write a poem sometimes they're good right away. Like, there have been times when I don't need to edit them, but other times I can spend up to five days or more editing the poem.
Leonard Cohen, in one of his interviews, said that he was still editing a poem after 10 years and he said there's a time when you just have to let that poem go if you're not getting it where you want it to be. So, I think that it's not only spontaneous but it's also like a discipline in the art just like if you're going to pick up a paintbrush or an instrument, you have that discipline also.
I'll see something that will inspire me. Like a lot of times, out in nature, I'll see something that inspires me or what I want to write about. and then I'll go from there and a lot of times it's just the mood I'm in that I need to write. Like I just want to be getting that idea down or that mood down. It seems to be like there's, there's an overarching theme within this new piece. And then, the theme is like, as the title suggests, it's nature and poetry and there is this positivity that kind of comes over it.
Q: Can you speak a little bit about some of your poetry within this collection that envelops the theme of Nature Poetry of Beauty and Presence?
Johnson: I like to keep my poetry on a bright note. I kind of coined it, bittersweet, melancholy or melancholic joy. I'll take that and like Blake even said, if you don't know melancholy, you don't know real joy because they're too extremes on the spectrum of emotion. So, I'll take that moment where I'm feeling a little bit depressed about something and I'll flip it and bring it to the present. So I like to be in the present. Bring it to the present rather than let the past nurture you.
Q: Tell me about what people can expect from the debut of your latest collection at the Nipigon Public Library on Sept. 23.
Johnson: What happens is with all of my readings, my husband joins me. He's a professional musician, Michael Kivari. You can find him on Spotify. He played with Scott Van Teeffelen as lead guitar for years, but he is a very good guitar player and he, joins me. He kind of plays a little bit of his own but then some Beatles or Dylan or Cat Stevens or something that will match the tone of the poetry that I'm going to read.
So usually what happens is he'll play three songs and then I'll read three poems. He'll end up playing maybe nine songs and I'll read 12 poems during the evening. That just breaks it up and makes it a more enjoyable program than somebody just listening to one poem after the other.
My poetry doesn't take more than a minute or so to read. Even the longer ones, maybe a minute or a minute and a half. So, I mean, you wouldn't want to be doing a 45-minute program. You'd be reading 45 poems.
Johnson and Kivari will be performing at the Nipigon Public Library on Sept. 23 between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
They are also scheduled for an event in Thunder Bay in partnership with Lakehead University English Department at Howl at the Moon Late Night Coffee Bar on Sept. 29th at 7 p.m.
For Canadian Mental Illness Awareness Week, the Canadian Mental Health Association Safe Beds in Thunder Bay will be unveiling a wall mural featuring Johnson's poem Train Station Platform on Oct. 4.