Praise for Green:
The poems of Melissa Fite Johnson’s Green excavate the bittersweet tenderness invoked by the collection’s title. To be green is to be naïve, heading into a sea of defining experiences, a vantage Johnson wonderfully explores in poems that chart the pains of girlhood: the casual critiques that stick, the difficulty of relationships with boys, family, friends. She also writes movingly of her disabled father. Grappling with the grief and guilt evoked by his death, Johnson admits, “If a poem resurrects, how many times have I tried?” While some losses cannot be reversed, it is in this act of writing that Johnson offers readers another vision of green: to grow through challenge, to will oneself to flourish despite pain, is to be fully alive, a trajectory Green reminds is possible for us all.
—Ruth Williams, author of Flatlands
In Melissa Fite Johnson’s beautiful new book, Green, a body and a heart are both things that can be divided. Johnson looks at the way grief has its own language and how a mouth is a thing that can both create and erase. In these poems, the past has crystallized into desire lessons, the fear that accompanies those first encounters, and the inherited legacies that shape how we see ourselves. This book knows time slips away quickly but holds us in unflinching memory before releasing us to the wide and green world.”
—Traci Brimhall, author of Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod
In her latest poetry collection, Melissa Fite Johnson somehow manages to lace grief with hope, and questioning with reckoning. Love is at the heart of this collection, but not simple love: love that questions, love that demands, love that is irreverent and taxing, love in its fragility and strength. The poems dig through the rubble of youth and uncover hard truths, and the poems show how when we are young, we may think something horrible will swallow the rest of our lives, and then it doesn’t, and how this is terrible and beautiful all at once. This poet writes of the connection we have as humans to each other, even when the string that ties us is so thin it can barely be found; yet she finds it, and she plucks.
—Shuly Xóchitl Cawood, author of Trouble Can Be So Beautiful at the Beginning
The poems in Green, both searing and soft-hearted, span from early childhood to old age, and demonstrate with consistent poignancy that girlhood and womanhood are not separate phases of life but as interconnected as fibers in a leaf. Through the unique lens of the color green and all its complicated connotations—newness, nature, jealousy, and more—Johnson unflinchingly examines the many shades of human relationships, asking ‘What if?’ before ‘time rusts the gate closed.’ These touching, impeccably crafted poems dare to heal the emotional wounds that come from living and loving in a gendered world.
—Marianne Kunkel, author of Hillary, Made Up
For A Crooked Door Cut into the Sky:
A Crooked Door Cut into the Sky is shot through with loss, with the ways our bodies fail us, and with what we can’t—or don’t—say. The speakers are daughters, wives, not-mothers, and they occupy domestic spaces in which “nothing is missing.” Indeed, everything is present in Melissa Fite Johnson’s elegiac collection, even the empty spaces: a remembered father, the children not to be born, the past that is at once long-gone and not gone at all.
—Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones and The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison
Melissa Fite Johnson’s A Crooked Door Cut Into the Sky is like a poetry photo album where poems appear like perfect snapshots of a life being lived. Johnson’s poems question what it means to be human—what we hold onto and what we let go. The narrative beauty of these poems lead us into a garden where branches quilt patterns into the sky—the possibility of becoming a parent and the experience of losing one. This chapbook grounds us in the past and present and connects the two worlds—leaving me thankful for this poet who opens the door for us to walk into her poems and join her.
—Kelli Russell Agodon, author of Hourglass Museum and Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room
For While the Kettle’s On:
While the Kettle’s On openly, whimsically and originally explores homecoming, whirling its journey through past generations, the present body, making home, unmaking the self, and everyday love. This strong first collection lands on what is, and what is behind what is, from the tree in the present that will one day be gone, to the grandmother once young, choosing “this future, this little life.” Melissa Fite Johnson helps us see the large world encapsulated in the gestures and glances of even the smallest moments of this little or big life, including what losses damage even fresh air and what graces give us back all we are. In essence, the whole collection is about love, and how to recognize it when it shines through the moments that matter.
—Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate
Melissa’s poems are at turns delightfully romantic (think Nora Ephron, think Say Anything) and mournfully elegiac, never letting us forget, even in the domestic bliss of the evening walk, that we are as mortal and frail as the trees and flowers around us.
—From the book’s introduction by Laura Lee Washburn, author of This Good Warm Place and Watching the Contortionists
Reading While the Kettle’s On, one feels invited into Melissa Fite Johnson’s family. Like a good novel, Johnson’s poems bring us into her world, and readers come to know her the way we know a close relative or good friend: sharing times of joy and loss, sharing life-changing events (deaths, romance, and marriage) and the small day-to-day details (a garden of hydrangeas or eating hot dogs at a baseball game) that make our lives most truly our own. Each poem is well-crafted and enjoyable on its own, but the true pleasure is in the way the book as a whole draws us vividly into a community of family and friends and, most of all, into the mind of a poet who reveals a full range of human emotion, from happiness to sorrow and from nagging self-doubt to quiet confidence.
—Christopher Todd Anderson, former Poetry Editor for The Midwest Quarterly
I have been reading Melissa’s poetry—one poem every other Sunday—for more than a decade now, with pleasure, and with admiration for her dedication, artistry, and skill. I suspect she is her own toughest critic, and that is how it should be. She’s good: her word choices are good, her lines lean, no lardy modifiers. She’s a poet. I’m glad to have her as a friend.
—Roland Sodowsky, author of AWP Award Winner Things We Lose