Interview with KENNETH JOHNSON
What writers have inspired you?
There are, of course, too many to mention, but here are a few. Octavio Paz, for his
sense of history and marriage of words to form—he is like a sculptor. Lawrence
Ferlinghetti, for his storytelling and brilliant imagery. Nikki Giovanni, for her passion and
politics. Adrienne Rich, for the power and importance of every word (which is something
I am working on in my writing). I’m inspired by Kevin Young’s point of view and way with
words. I admire the work and strength of Aubri Kaufman and Joy Harpo. Georgette
LeBlanc’s descriptive writing is truly inspiring. I am from New Orleans and I have an
affinity for all things Acadiana.
What projects are you currently engaged in?
I am working to finish several paintings started this year while putting the finishing
touches on a chapbook to submit to a small publisher. I will continue to edit these
poems. I want to be certain I have a theme that I can articulate and is evident to a
reader. Subjects of my work can be pretty random. I embrace randomness but I’m not
certain that will be evident to a reader of a collection of poems. I grapple with the importance of theme.
How has the year changed your work as an educator?
This year has been a challenge— "a blessing and a curse,” as they say. It hasn’t been
easy on anyone except, perhaps, those with power and privilege. I’ve had to be more
flexible and more accepting when things don’t go as planned. The work has not
changed, but the approach and delivery of instruction has changed. It has been difficult
for students to remain engaged and enthusiastic about their education during this
difficult year. However, I am constantly impressed with the adaptability shown by
students and colleagues. In that sense, I am blessed.
How have you maintained your artistic skills during lockdowns?
This too has been a challenge. It’s easy to think “Yes, now, I have all this time!” Ha!
Some days are better than others. I find it’s easy—for me—to fall into a kind of malaise.
I’m not good with maintaining an artistic schedule or blocking out time or goal setting,
Honestly, I do the best I can.
Do you have any goals for the New Year?
I don’t have goals that are mapped out or on a list. I know people who work this way,
but it’s not my strength. I will continue to work on projects and honing skills. In my art, it
is always about trying to find/express truth. In my writing, I’ll continue to work on
exploring various themes and aspects of our individual and collective human condition. I
know I need to work on economy of style. I’ll also continue to improve my Spanish
language skills. I’ve written poems in Spanish. I love the language and have studied many years.
Is community important to your writing? Are there any magazines or small
presses that you feel a strong attachment to?
Community is important because without it we can become isolated and our work can
be overly self-aware. It’s important to engage in community because we gain insight to
points of view other than our own. If we create art with the intent of having another, or a
public, experience it, feedback on how it’s perceived is valuable for an artist. This is
opposed to one who says I create for me, no one else.
It seems the small press industry is strong. I think a lot of new ones have been started
during this pandemic year and that’s exciting. I like Ploughshares, Thorn Lit Magazine,
and The White Review from London. I think Nine Arches Press does a great job and I
enjoy their Under the Radar magazine. I love making new discoveries as I did with
Splintered Disorder Press. I’m impressed with SDP. I’m a big fan!