This Will Be a Sign

This Will Be a Sign
Jeffrey L. Johnson
2020- March
Fernwood Press

Consider the moments in this collection - a mother is buried, a son is born, Alaska melts - each event a signpost. Reflect on the signs of rest and restlessness, simplicity and complexity, life given and taken and throbbing. This is the way of faith. We watch for truth's brilliant appearance, and in the midst of our heartbreak-while-waiting, we pray. Jeffrey Johnson's poems listen to the angels, they sing the doxologies, they pay loving attention to life. They are prayers. They will help you feel the power of life. They will teach you to pray.

Jeffrey L. Johnson has degrees from St. Olaf College, Yale Divinity School and Boston University. He has written two non-fiction books and edited Stars Shall Bend Their Voices: Poets’ Favorite Hymns and Spiritual Songs, a collection of essays by noted poets on sacred music. He lives with his wife Kirsten in Massachusetts.

“We’ve almost forgotten to sing the sun down”, says Jeffrey Johnson.  He does not, however, forget. In his poems, sun crosses the horizon into night, a mother is buried, borders and thresholds are crossed, a son is born, Alaska melts, life is given and taken, throbbing.  In all this activity, moments of attention and blessing shine out, crossing over into words where they are, briefly, held.  
—Margaret Gibson, author of Not Hearing the Wood Thrush and Connecticut Poet Laureate

These fine poems work two ways at once. There is the poem on the page, but also signaled is the contemplation that precedes the poem. My sense is the contemplative mode—never easy or settled—prepares the way for the poem. This is a book of faith, a faith that has wriggled its way to life in the world.  
—Maurice Manning, author of Railsplitter

Only someone looking for truth could reveal its brilliant appearance: “as out of a snow squall, / into a star-shot night.” These are emblematic poems, imagistic unities, with form and content in harmony, helping us to see how earth and heaven come together when “The green mother opens her arms to all of us . . .” “Checkpoint,” typical of the best in this collection, reminds us that all we may wish to declare, though inadequate for the authorities, is all we have for poetry. There is no better heartbreak than a poem that breaks your heart.
—Mark Jarman, author of The Heronry

Jeffrey Johnson’s poems exists in a twilight world of rest and restlessness. They do not shy away from the complexities of a life of faith. They listen to angels, weary of their glory, but they still sing doxologies that praise “all who tried to make it, up and down / Main Street, with dreams that needed more traffic, / of a less familiar kind.” Rich, earnest and reverential, these poems pay loving attention to our lives on earth.  
—Jason Gray, author of Radiation King

Jeffrey Johnson’s poems draw us into intimate relationship with earthbound life—birth, childhood, parenting, aging and death.  In vivid, painterly and euphonious language, they evoke the natural world and the spirit that dwells within and beyond all flesh. Quiet and melancholic, alert and attentive, some of them seem almost like prayers. They will help you notice—come into the presence and feel—the power of life, in all of its ordinariness and splendor. Reading this book can be experienced as a kind of prayer.
—Richard Chess, author of Love Nailed to the Doorpost


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