Sunday, March 18, 2012

Author Insides - Michael Lee Johnson

Michael Lee Johnson is a poet from Itasca, Illinois who lived 10 years in Canada during the Vietnam era.  His work has been published in 23 countries. His published poetry books are available through his site as well as Amazon.Com, Borders Books, and Lulu.com.

His poems "Kansas" and "Mexican Street Children" appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of The Battered Suitcase.

Michael Lee, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I have been scribbling at paper and later restaurant napkins (while in Canada referred to as serviettes) since I was 16 or 17 years old.  When I was about 11 or 12 walking toward the wooded area in rural South Bend, Indiana,  I "saw an Easter bunny" that I was convinced that it was as tall as the telephone pole it was beside.  Before I understood that completely, I wanted to write about it, long before I really knew what writing was about?  Due to a severe disease as a youth, I barely made it through grades two, three, and four in grade school, thus missing basic phonics, grammar, and syntax.  So I have struggle throughout my life with these elements of writing.  I also failed creative writing class in university.  Fortunately, my conceptual skills and imagistic mind, coupled with the eccentricities of poetry have allowed me to survive these shortcomings.

Why do you write?  Why not? 

I think it has something to do with life experiences and interpretations of those experiences, plus locating where my conceptual and imagistic ability derive from:  right or left hemisphere of the brain.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?

I think from a relatively early age I realized an ability to imagine things in a big, different, and diverse way.  I didn’t realize they were meant to go on paper till later.  I didn’t realize how poor a poet could be.

What do you think makes a good story?

A good story is good mental cinema; use of common words in a creative way; the ability to see an incident or photograph in an isolated way and expand upon everything around it.

What's your favorite genre to read?

I write primarily imagistic poetry free verse with storytelling elements, some limited form poetry such as Japanese poetry since I love the short imagery and lingering feeling.  I tried fiction a few times but so far have failed miserably; which is unfortunate since fiction does pay.  “The Lost American:  from Exile to Freedom,” was originally intended to be a novel but evolved into a book of poetry.

Who is your favorite author or poet? 

I have been heavily influenced by:  Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen, and Allen Ginsberg; especially Carl Sandburg.  I was able in 2010 to visit Galesburg, Illinois, his birthplace and the Carl Sandburg State Historic Site.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?

Jesus Christ, the new testament of the Bible; The Fight of the Eagle, by J. Krishamurti; Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea.  Also a little book of poems entitled The Little Tin Soldier, author forgotten, but I carried this book with by clothes hitchhiking on the highways of Ontario in exile during the Vietnam War.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?   

Most are above, but I’d say over all the influence and astonishment of acts in the Bible by Jesus Christ, and the promises there within.
Where/how do you find the most inspiration?

For me inspiration is often found in nature and expanded to reflect a human condition of sunshine or rain.  Sometimes it is a few moments lying in bed before sleep and recording on a tape recorder; sometimes it is driving along with that tape recorder and re-listening over and over making changes.  Sometimes it jumps at me over a few shots of Vodka.

What does your family think of your writing?

I have very little family to share with anymore, most are in heaven with their wings or roasting their pitchforks in hot ashes.  I share my works with fellow small press editors, local long term friends, and drive acquaintances nutty with the occasional email−most remember poetry as their most contemptible subject, this included me when only the “Masters” were read.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I don’t think I have a schedule: in between running a small demanding little promotional business (www.promoman.us), that affords me the luxury of writing time, sliced between editing four poetry sites and averaging about fifty to eighty five emails a day.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?

Yes.  Knowing full well of my numerous shortcoming, swearing, impulsive behaviors, sometime difficult to get along with, I read the following to start each day:

Today there is peace within me.
I trust God, revealed through Jesus Christ,
that I‘m exactly where I’m meant to be.
I have given this control of my life over to God,
through Jesus Christ,
(all the fears, anxieties, self-doubts)
and taken it away from myself.
This is the gift of faith.
His presence and healing
settles in my bones.

It’s basically recognizing and realizing there is more to life than me.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

That is simple:  my life time struggle with phonics, grammar, and syntax.
What are your current projects?

Right now my only current project is to catch up with everything lingering.

What are you planning for future projects?

A long term project is to gather all my initial works with all the new ones hitting the market now plus many not exposed to small press yet, collecting them all into a large book of poetry likely called “Electric in the Sun.”

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Yes I do. It is imperative you support local and international small presses, without them, poets and others would be screaming in cornfields and no one would be answering. They are a God sent, support them! The editors work hard to edit, format, select, review, emails many hours each day. They are like writers, and many of them are or were writers. Since poetry pays little, requires much, I see my personal story writing poems since 16 years of age, now 63 years old as an example of determination. Most of my publishing has come in within the last four years-I had/have poems dating back as far as 1967. Now, forty seven years later, by poems are getting published all over the world, and most of them came from yellowed papers, wrinkled napkins and such, they wait for the hand of revival. Never give up hope and always remember a power greater than self is driving the life vehicle home.
Where can we find your work? 

Just type “Michael Lee Johnson” into Google search and you will find me everywhere.  My new poetry chapbook with pictures, titled From Which Place the Morning Rises, and his new photo version of The Lost American: from Exile to Freedom are available at: http://stores.lulu.com/promomanusa. The original version of The Lost American: from Exile to Freedom, can be found at: http://www.iuniverse.com/bookstore/book_detail.asp?isbn=0-595-46091-7.  New Chapbook:  Challenge of Night and Day, and Chicago Poems, by Michael Lee Johnson:  http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/challenge-of-night-and-day-and-chicago-poems-%28night%29/12443733.  I have 2 previous chapbooks available at: http://stores.lulu.com/poetryboy.
I have been published in 23 different countries. I’m also editor/publisher of four poetry sites, all open for submission, which can be found at his Web site: http://poetryman.mysite.com.  All of my books are now available on Amazon.com:http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=michael+lee+johnson. Borders:  http://www.borders.com.au/book/lost-american-from-exile-to-freedom/1566571/.  Now on You-Tube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ih5WJrjqQ18.   E-mail: promomanusa@gmail.com.