by Carolyn Howard-Johnson
"No one could call me a Carolyn-come-lately/but many did." So begins Tracings,
the introspective, evocative poetry volume by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, whose poems such
as "Shelf Life" (Poem of the Month, Long Story Short, March 2004) and "Olvera Street
Tutorial" (Pedestal Magazine Readers Award) have touched wordsmiths and word-lovers.
You understand Howard-Johnson's success when you read phrases such as "a cloak/of burned
velvet enfolds galaxies," and, "Now age obscures images, pulled taffy/whisked meringue,
they melt, struggle to be named." In Howard-Johnson's poetry, you huddle beside a soldier
uncle smelling of Barbasol, and experience World War II in the modern era at the War Museum
in Oslo while dealing with the pangs of worry for a grandson sent off to war in Iraq. An
air raid disturbs your world, your mother soothes you, and later in life, you comfort
your mother in a long-term care facility, then go through your deceased aunt's books.
You visit desire and watch a May-December romance on the observation deck of a ship...
this is not your English professor's poetry. These are not just tracings of a life, they
Poetic arcs in Howard-Johnson's story-verses often lead back to Utah, land of Howard-Johnson's
novel This Is the Place", and short story volume Harkening: A Collection of Stories
Remembered, but do not stop there. Howard-Johnson writes a landscape rich in emotion
and significance. She muses on the written word: "Poetry. You and I touch/even though we
are light years apart." This, ultimately, is poetry's essence that Howard-Johnson captures.
NOTE: Reviewer and
award-winning writer Kristin Johnson's books are Butterfly Wings: A Love Story,
Christmas Cookies are for Giving, co-written with Mimi Cummins and Ordinary
Miracles: My Incredible Spiritual, Artistic and Scientific Journey, co-written with
Sir Rupert A.L. Perrin, M.D.