Peninsula Poetry: Donna Johnson

Peninsula Poetry is a monthly column curated by the Door County Poets Collective, a 12-member working group that was formed to publish Soundings: Door County in Poetry in 2015 and continues to meet.

Upon moving to Door County in 2012, Donna Johnson quickly took advantage of the abundant arts community. She often calls Door County a “wellspring of creativity” and claims there is something in the water!She sought out Irish musicians, then started participating in seisuns (Irish music jam sessions), barn/contra dances and private gigs playing the bodhran (pronounced bow-ron), the Irish flat drum. Johnson volunteers at several theater and performance venues and has performed in productions with Isadoora Theater, Rogue Theater, Third Avenue Playhouse, Door Shakespeare and Theater M. She sings in two choirs and is a member of Belles Lettres, a poetry writing group.

What’s your writing routine?
I am not a very disciplined writer but would like to get into more of a routine. I will write down phrases or events that inspire me to use later, sometimes use prompts and sometimes use angel cards to stimulate writing.

What do most poorly written poems have in common? What do most well-written poems have in common?
Poetry is very personal and means different things to different people. I believe poetry should be accessible to all, meaning that it should be relatable, not too obscure. It also should elicit an emotional response, a memory or some kind of connection with the reader or listener.

Is it important to understand the meaning of the poem or for the reader to be able to “solve” it?
Not necessarily. I feel that one can be moved by the beauty and crafting of the words without understanding the poem.

What book are you reading right now?
I often listen to books and am currently listening to the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn and am awaiting a copy of the book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson.

"Mornings After"

Leaving the restaurant I stop, survey the scene,  
     squint-eyed and dismayed.
With a sigh I trudge wearily through the swirling  
    snow and ice crystals, hit the unlock button to my    
    car and am puzzled when my tugging doesn’t
    produce an open door.
Then with a crackle and a pop, my ice-encrusted 
     car yields, welcoming me to its inner sanctum.
But sanctuary must wait until I divest my car 
     of its ice sheath.
Amid the storm’s fury, wind howling in my ears, 
     I chip, chip, chip and scrape the windows 
     clean of the offending coating.
At last I enter, settle on the sheepskin seat cover,
    tuck myself in, and select soothing music 
    to accompany me on the hazardous journey.

Inching down the slope of the parking lot to the 
     slick street, I leave the relative safety 
     of Sturgeon Bay heading north on Highway 57.
The treachery of the slush/snow/ice-covered road 
     is compounded by near white-out conditions.
There is none of the usual small town comfort of 
     driving through Institute, Valmy, Jacksonport.
They stand dark and unwelcoming, chiding me for 
     being out on this night, their “Tsk tsk tsk”-ing 
     in rhythm with my windshield wipers.

Home at last, I crunch to the outside stairs, then
      up to my cozy abode and the delighted greeting
      of my patiently-waiting dog.
Retiring to my recliner, I invite Addie to join me 
     for snuggles, and with her snoring on my lap, 
     I drift off …
Hours later, my eyes flutter open, assaulted 
     by brightness and the scraping of a snowplow.
I look out my east wall of windows, greeted 
     by dazzling whiteness under a cerulean canopy.

Sing praises for mornings after!
"Serenity at Dawn"

swirling darkness        churning thoughts 
tossed into the black cauldron of the night
thick with regret
the roil of what ifs      if onlys 
dispel hope of the solace of slumber

with dawn approaching
I crawl to the east 
cloaked by the inky-ness of night
yearning for the promise of
light and a new day

a solitary star hovers over the harbor horizon
casting a gossamer thread onto the still water
a beacon for the fishing boats
guiding them to their catch

over a bank of clouds 
the ever so faint emergence of light 
grey bleeds into black
inches upward
silhouettes the trees standing sentry
starts a languid progression of color
pale pink seeping into pastel yellow
turning into sea foam green
deepens to robin’s egg blue 
like diluted watercolors

light builds    intensifies     crescendos 
pushing away the last vestiges of gloom 
coral wisps of clouds now dance 
across the turquoise morning sky 
an aggressive tango into the new day

Traveling east on Meadow
I come upon a truck with a load 
of cherries swimming in water 
to protect the precious fruit. 
Spurts of water leap up sporadically as the truck 
travels the rough country road imitating 
their big city cousins in those fancy dancing fountains.  
Traces of cherries that met an untimely 
end at the hands of a careless driver who took 
a turn too quickly form an arced 
red swath on the pavement
dashed dreams of 
cherry bars
chopped cherry jam
cherry cider
cherry pie
cherry salsa 
cherry stuffed French toast
cherry bounce