St. Paul's Chapel and Selected Shorter Poems

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9781556182112: St. Paul's Chapel and Selected Shorter Poems

"My favorites among these poems remind us that ‘flesh is still the thing,’ that, no matter how much the body changes, its frail beauty is eternal. And not just our physical bodies, either, but the world we live in: thus poems as different as ‘The School on Rue des Rosiers,’ which recalls the Holocaust, and ‘St. Paul’s Chapel,’ written in the wake of 9/11, remind the reader that after cruelty and death come music, dancing, the rebuilding of lives. ‘I’ve now lived long enough/ to hold that both good and bad/ have their places in the world,’ writes Johnson, and from the mingled cries of the drowned and the saved he makes a haunting, unforgettable poetry." – David Kirby

"J. Chester Johnson’s poems possess an energy and a zest for the made thing, that, as he wittily states, tames, yes, the rage but also the roving, ravishing intellect of the mind’s hunger. I am even more convinced of his sensuous ability to compose lines that delight even as they articulate the well-spring of joy and pain from which all life issues, when I hear such lines on volunteering at Ground Zero, NYC: ’hands as stars, hands as stripes, hands as a flag.’ Undoubtedly, this is a work headed for literary permanence in our collective ear." – Major Jackson

"It's a pleasure to read the work of a poet who knows what a poem is. What my memory treasures most after a good reading of this collection are the wise and often playful quatrains plus one of the most penetrating observations in poetry and poetics; early in the book, closing the poem, 'Irony at the Armchair,' we are told that 'irony is fantasy under control.’ Yes." – Miller Williams

"Chester Johnson’s short poems might be rehearsals for the intelligent person’s conversation with God. By turns playful, questioning, earthy, fearful, and often wry, they dwell on the paradox, as he puts it, of ‘why we choose to be beyond what we understand.’" – Pamela McCorduck, author of Machines Who Think

"There is a world of verbal wit and lyric intensity in J. Chester Johnson's St. Paul's Chapel & Selected Shorter Poems. Nothing under the sun is alien to Johnson's sharp eye for the telling detail and ear finely tuned to the necessary music of true poetry. His poem for the church used as a shrine to the victims of the September 11th attacks, ‘St. Paul's Chapel,’ is one of the finest, most poignant, and faith affirming on this terrible subject that I've ever read." – Robert Cooperman

"With J. Chester Johnson, objectivity and passion coexist naturally. And language, rather than abstracting experience, breathes a direct connection to our tragedies, pettiness, bones and sweat and exaltation." – Jean Mellichamp Milliken, The Lyric

"These delightful poems are self-contained, succinct and declarative, admirable for their shapeliness and humor, their aptness and originality." – John E. Smelcer, poetry editor, Rosebud

"Chester Johnson has crafted these poems – over years and miles – with a precision and economy one might not expect in poems that also sing so beautifully. They have a jewel-like spiritual depth: facets and illuminations revealing themselves as one gazes, new ones appearing upon re-reading." – Barbara Crafton, Episcopal priest and author

"Poet Johnson, author of ten chapbooks, has now published a collection of poems – some old, some new, but all riveting – for those who appreciate the poetic rhythm of our language. . . readers of the poetry of today will find St. Paul’s Chapel & Selected Shorter Poems a thoroughly enjoyable read that they can pick up and read again and again." – Art Bounds, editor, The Pegasus Review

"Reading a poem in J. Chester Johnson’s current collection pauses a sensitive reader at its conclusion to re-read the poem and become involved in the poem’s experience. That is what an excellent poem does." – Ray Foreman, editor, Clark Street Review

"The selection of poems was a delight. The verse contains crystalline moments for the reader. Still life or heroic verse, both are equally captivating." – Ellen Shull, editor, Palo Alto Review

"Gifted. A fine talent for the phrase." – Allen Tate

"My reaction to (Johnson’s) work, wholehearted as it was, did not come near to envisioning the scope and quality, the prodigality of (Johnson’s) accelerating career." – William Stafford

"The collection will please the many people who enjoy twists of language, clever phrases and rhymes, and wily punch lines. Lively, entertaining; and with courage in its lightness." – Constance Hunting, poet, editor, The Puckerbrush Review

"Wherever my gaze fell I read good lines." – Isaac B. Singer, Nobel Prize Winner for Literature

"Truly a master of the difficult art of compression." – Albert J. Guerard

"When the staff editors and I at Hawai’i Pacific Review decided to publish J. Chester Johnson’s poem, ’Fear of Flying’, we were impressed with his ability to bring nature into the scenario of the 9/11 catastrophe. . .(and) to conjure up images of flight and tie them to the unfortunate victims of 9/11 who chose to jump from the building rather than endure the holocaust inside. And amidst all this, a sudden, fleeting fascination with ‘A swatch of cellophane (swelling) heavenward, higher still,’ . . .Then, the final question that we all fear to ask: ‘Flying is good for business, we’re told,/But is it good for us?’ brings together a fascinatingly composed poem, not unlike many of his others. Johnson’s poems demonstrate his very canny ability to turn an unexpected phrase, his wry sense of humor, and his penchant for getting at the heart of problematic situations that we all would do well to ponder." – Patrice M. Wilson, editor, Hawai’i Pacific Review

"J. Chester Johnson’s succinct, direct style is a bracing tonic for those whose sensibilities and sensitivities have been battered by the obfuscations of the modern vernacular. His work is full of spirit, heart, and a sly humor based in delight. Seldom does plain sense seem so uncommon. The reader is better and wiser for the experience. One hopes the wide cultural world will discover and embrace this new found land of enchantment." – Phil Wagner, ICONOCLAST Magazine

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About the Author:

Widely acclaimed for his verse, Chester Johnson writes poems that, in the words of the literary critic, Edward Mendelson, "range over a wide verbal, intellectual, and emotional territory that includes unsettling moments of darkness – in both the inner and outer worlds – and reassuring evocations of light. But all its elements cohere in a unified vision. In the phrase of the old Baedeker guides, these landscapes are ‘worth the journey.’" He was one of two poets on the revision committee of the Psalms for The Episcopal Church, which version now appears in The Book of Common Prayer. One of his poems is also on display at Ground Zero in St. Paul’s Chapel and serves as a handout there. Chester Johnson has authored ten chapbooks; drawing on those collections and new verse, he has put together a new book of poetry in St. Paul’s Chapel & Selected Shorter Poems that includes both past and recent work. He has had an active business career, being a group head at The Morgan Bank (JP Morgan), Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U. S. Department of Treasury, and, for many years now, chairman of his own financial advisory firm for securities sold by states, localities, public authorities and non-profit entities.

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J. Chester Johnson
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