Ronald Johnson's Underground Classic of Visionary and Queer Poetry
Ronald Johnson's underground classic of visionary and queer poetics, VALLEY OF THE MANY-COLORED GRASSES, has been legendarily hard to find for over 50 years. In this book of poems, Johnson creates a specifically North American vision that references everything from ancient Native American myths to Johnny Appleseed, from Charles Darwin to the Wizard of Oz, microcosmically transforming the vast open expanse of the plains into delicate flower petals. These are poems of observation, transformation, and a uniquely subtle sensibility harmonically tuned to the stars. Masterfully crafted examples of poetic music and textures, Johnson weaves together texts to show the world from multiple angles of vision, not only his own, to explore what others have seen and experienced of the world. One of the most unheralded poets in literature, Ronald Johnson needs to be securely placed in history with the likes of his fellow dreamers: Stan Brakhage, Marguerite Young, Charles Ives, Marsden Hartley, and the Transcendentalists.
"I count Ronald Johnson as one of the defining peers of my own imagined company of poets." — Robert Creeley
"Poems 'sudden, & peculiar as mushrooms'; poems that 'hold meaning / as a nest that holds speckled bird’s eggs'; poems that ask what anything is 'but the power to tell / the truth of it?' VALLEY OF THE MANY-COLORED GRASSES is an exquisitely moving consideration. Consideration, as Johnson knows and teaches, is a beautiful word that describes a gathering together of stars, as happens when you lie on the grass and look at the sky. Hamlet says the end of playing, by which he means the purpose of art, is to 'hold the mirror up to nature.' Whatever the purpose of art, let it be one as gentle and discovering as Johnson’s." — Jane Gregory
Feature @ LitHubChristopher Spaide @ Poetry Foundation
Ronald Johnson (1935-1998) was an American poet. From A Line of Poetry, A Row of Trees (1964) through his long poem entitled "ARK" (1996) and beyond, he wrote visionary poetry of minute observation and striking formal invention. Author City: USA