The Paradigm: Poetry through life's lessons
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By La’Shea M Johnson
The term “brutal honesty” gets tossed around a lot by critics and writers who are too lazy to actually explain what it is they supposedly just read. We’ve all read blurbs on dust jackets proclaiming this writer or that writer as the most honest person ever. And, as so often happens, we then find the same quotable person describing someone else as the most honest person ever.
La’Shea M Johnson deserves one of-a-kind quotes. Anything else would only give away the critic’s laziness. Her poetry demands to be read and, once read, it demands to be read again. The reader has no choice; her words are the lifeblood that sustains her. Without them who knows what demons she would have given in to. Let us just appreciate the fact she is here to guide us around the landmines of her upbringing so that we may learn from and guide the next generation around them, too.
I first read her in 2008 and was a bit more critical than I had any right to be. I assumed her use of language was inability. I quickly realized she wrote what she lived. Can everyone else say that? Some poets overreach. Others are too lazy to bother. La’Shea has no choice but to convey the vernacular of her upbringing in order to make the reader understand and appreciate what she has done for/to herself and those dependent on her. Once acknowledged, her reality is eye opening and suffocating for those of us privileged enough to have avoided a similar fate.
From “Department of Corrections (D.O.C.)” to “About a woman” to “Prove it to yourself,” her words will illicit primitive responses in the reader. Well, the non-elitist ones anyway, the ones who will see beyond the seemingly grammatical errors – which, when put into context, are only as incorrect as the world is flat. I quickly learned that about her in 2008.
When she writes “I saw hurt, I saw fear, I saw expectations, I saw courage and something imitating strength,” you know she long ago acknowledged her weaknesses and strengths as a woman, a mother and a poet. There is no room for doubt in her verse. And reading between the lines would prove futile since she has already laid bare her world.
“Give me the ugly” was originally a comment for a fellow dabbler of the written word - yours truly - that became a poem. It is responsive poetry that takes shape without the writer ever having to mold it. The kind of poetry that is born fully formed and only requires the occasional line break and separation of stanzas. How often is any writer given that gift? Not often enough and that makes good writers a rarity.
We all have our preferences when it comes to poetry. Some prefer obvious beauty. Others embrace angst. And, still, there are others who like their verse to be as visceral and wounding as a car crash – bystanders included. But how often are we fortunate enough to read one who stands exultant after so much heartache?
La’Shea M Johnson’s voice is the voice of a triumphant America. She is a woman who has lived every single one of her words and now stands tall, mighty sword in hand.
A healed poet tracing her scars with a pen.
(Where you can find her books)
Banrnes and Noble:
I will never write like you and I hope you never write like me.
"...the only war that matters is the war against the imagination--all other wars are subsumed in it..." -Diane di Prima