Sharpened, but not defined, by the author’s evolving experience of motor neurone disease, these poems are meditations on – and sometimes collisions with – the limits of body, language and voice. Veering from sardonic resignation to defiance, they use a variety of forms to entangle the living in the speech of the dead (poets and others), the quotidian in the odd, the local in something altogether elsewhere. And occasionally, the poet’s past, as an Indologist and translator from the Sanskrit, can be heard humming a catch to his altered self.
Will Johnson lives with his family in Cardiff. His poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Poetry Salzburg Review, Poetry Wales, and The SHOp. He has been placed in competitions organised by Agenda, Magma, and Lightship, and shortlisted for others, most recently the Live Canon International Poetry Competition. He has also published six India-related books (as W. J. Johnson), including verse translations from the Sanskrit in the Oxford World’s Classics series. He was founder-editor of the Cardiff University electronic journal, Asian Literature and Translation. Since leaving academia, he has spent more time writing poetry.
The poems of Will Johnson are both fervent and restrained. Their short lines, with their sharp enjambments, seem poised on a precipice, giving them an artful tension. They are rich with time and experience, but also keenly aware of mortality. The body and its failings are ever-present challenges, but the spirit fights back with urgency and aplomb. There is no small talk, no throw-away anecdote, there is only time to say what must be said. - AMY WACK