If you're as interested in Ronald Johnson (check out Octopus issue #3) as we are at Octopus, and you're within driving distance to Kansas (who isn't?), you should check this out. This came across the wires from Ben Lerner and Robert Webb:
Poetry Plaque Dedication & Symposium on Ronald Johnson
CONTACT:Robert Webb (785) 232-5274
On Wednesday, May 25, Topekans will celebrate the work of Kansas-born poet, Ronald Johnson, with two local events.
The Kansas Center for the Book , Old Prairie Town at Ward-Meade Historic Site and The Friends and Readers of Ronald Johnson are cosponsoring the commemorations.
Plaque dedication: At 2:00 P.M. in Old Prairie Town at Ward-Meade Historic Site, 124 NW Fillmore, a bronze plaque will be dedicated. It features a poem from Ronald Johnson's final sequence of nature poems, written while Johnson worked at Ward-Meade. The garden location is in an area on the north side of the Prairie Mansion's courtyard, where Johnson often sat to write. The resulting book, The Shrubberies, posthumously published in 2001 by Flood Editions, Chicago, was termed "an enduring pleasure" in a recent issue of Poetry magazine. A reception in the Preston Hale Room of the Prairie Mansion follows the dedication. The general public is invited.
Symposium: At 7:00 P.M. in the Topeka & Shawnee County Library, the Kansas Center for the Book will hold a symposium on The Shrubberies and other works of Ronald Johnson. Since his death in Topeka in 1998, Johnson's stature as an important literary figure has steadily grown. Participants in the panel discussion and reading are Peter O'Leary, Johnson's literary executor and editor; one of Johnson's publishers from Flood Editions, Devin Johnston; and Norman Finkelstein, a literary critic who has written perceptively about Johnson's work. The symposium will be held in Marvin Auditorium, Room 101 C, off the main rotunda at the library. The public is invited.
Thomas Fox Averill, Writer-in-residence at Washburn University > and the popular voice of William Jennings Bryan Oleander on Kansas Public Radio, will act as moderator at both of the day's events.
About Ronald Johnson: Born in Ashland, Kansas in 1935, Johnson moved with his family to Topeka in the mid 1950s. He graduated from Columbia University in 1960 and traveled extensively. His first book of poetry, A Line Of Poetry , A Row Of Trees, 1964, contained many specifically "Kansas poems." Over the next 32 years, he published seven other major books of poetry as well as a long metaphysical poem titled ARK, created over a 20-year period. He also had a parallel career as a chef and caterer and produced five cookbooks on American regional cooking. In 1993, Johnson returned to Topeka and is remembered by many here for his part-time work as a cookie baker at Ward-Meade Park. The gardens there inspired him to write the sequence of highly condensed poems which bridge common experience to the universal in a way that is both precise and ecstatic. As a "poet's poet", Ronald Johnson is admired by many of the new generation of American poets. Extensive discussions of his work have appeared on Internet magazines, such as Octopus and LVNG, as well as in several recent books of poetry criticism. To Do As Adam Did, Selected Poems of Ronald Johnson, edited by Peter O'Leary, was published in 2000 by Talisman House. Flood Editions republication of RADI OS, one of Johnson's books which has long been out of print, is available this month and is one of several ongoing publishing projects of the poet's work.