Melissa Fite Johnson has been telling stories all her life. When she was a little kid, she loved sitting on her father’s lap and instructing him what to type. Back then, it was usually stories about kittens’ birthday parties. For elementary school show-and-tell, Melissa shared her narratives, which by then were about girls named Tiffany getting kidnapped. And in college, Melissa fell in love with poetry as a fluke when she took a creative writing class to study fiction.
Though her major at Pittsburg State University was English education, Melissa found herself taking as many poetry workshop classes as the creative writing students did, a practice she continued while getting her Master’s in literature. Over the years, the instructor of those courses, Laura Lee Washburn, became Melissa’s mentor and dear friend. Laura started a poetry workshop group in 2004 and asked Melissa to join. They’ve met every other Sunday at Laura’s house since. Undoubtedly, Melissa is a better writer because of their thoughtful guidance.
Melissa’s poetry has appeared in such publications as Valparaiso Poetry Review, I-70 Review, The New Verse News, velvet-tail, Red Paint Hill Journal, Whale Road Review, 3Elements Review, and Broadsided Press. She has been nominated for Best of the Net, and she was the featured poet in the Fall 2015 issue of The Journal: Inspiration for the Common Good. She has been part of several Kansas Poet Laureate projects, including Wyatt Townley’s HomeWords and Caryn Mirrian-Goldberg’s blog, Kansas Time + Place. Melissa’s poems appear in numerous Kansas anthologies.
Melissa’s first collection, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Press, 2015), won the Nelson Poetry Book Award and is a Kansas Notable Book. Her second, Ghost Sign (Spartan Press, 2016) is a collaboration with fellow Southeast Kansas poets Al Ortolani, Adam Jameson, and J.T. Knoll, for which Jo McDougall wrote the introduction. Currently, Melissa is working on her thesis for a poetry emphasis through PSU.
Melissa teaches English at her old high school. She and her husband, Marc, live in Pittsburg with their dog and several chickens. Feel free to connect with her at melissafitejohnson.com.
East of Sorrow by Marc Hudson
Marc Hudson is a poet and an environmental writer. His first book of poems, Afterlight, received the Juniper Prize from the University of Massachusetts Press. His previous books of poems are Journal for an Injured Son and The Disappearing Poet Blues. His Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary was published by Wordsworth Editions, Ltd. of the United Kingdom. His awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, the Strousse Award (from Prairie Schooner), and the Allen Tate Poetry Prize (from The Sewanee Review). He taught creative writing and literature at Wabash College in Indiana for 28 years and presently lives in the Sugar Creek watershed with his wife, Helen Mundy Hudson. He is at work on a collection of essays on dwelling and the American Earth and edits a local newspaper column for the Friends of Sugar Creek.
Marc Hudson’s fourth full-length collection of poems, the book is a meditation on water, its shaping and animating presence on our planet. In its final section, the book moves fully out into the natural world. Parenthood is a persistent theme in East of Sorrow It brings to a close the poetic journal of his life with his son, Ian, who died in 2002 and is equally about his daughter, Alix. The personal gives way to the ecological, to a contemplation of our planet in this age that is sometimes called the Anthropocene. Parenthood is a persistent theme in East of Sorrow. A reverent perspective inflects these poems. Though elegiac in places, East of Sorrow ends in praise.
Early Praise for East of Sorrow
The poems in Marc Hudson’s magnificent new collection, East of Sorrow, are those of a true bard of pitch-perfect and capacious vision. From the moving elegiac series for the poet’s disabled son to the tour de force visionary poems like “Letter to Miranda” (for the poet’s daughter) and “The Plaint of Nature” (for the planet), Hudson’s poems brim with that transformative energy called metaphor. Reptiles are “sail-bladed,” for example, and stone ledges become “escritoires.” The profoundly wise irony at the heart of this volume is that one cannot speak of the world’s disappearing music “without falling silent,” as one of the poems mournfully notes. Here is a poet who knows intimately the natural world we are losing, but offers praise instead of silence: his “little cup of language / in this falling world.” It is music to our ears! —Cynthia Hogue, author of Revenance
It is from a warm and patched-up heart, this book. From the opening poems about his dead son, which haunt the collection, through to the final nature poems, Hudson has written a book of unadulterated praise. With a sharp eye for detail and a talent for the meditative stance, he delivers in lush language enough beauties to overflow one's cup. Like Hopkins who saw the divine in everything, Hudson gives us a sunflower lifting "its many / blazing crowns," a mother who "sang through the doors of the sea," and a hospital room where a father washes the broken body of a son, through whose eyes God once gazed. —Alice Friman
Thomas Zvi Wilson initiated this reading series in 2001. The Writers Place cosponsors this series with the Johnson County Central Resource Library. Mr. Wilson’s objective was to broaden outreach for The Writers Place and create an additional venue for poetry and prose writers to read. After Thomas’ health failed, his wife Jeanie Wilson, an emeritus board member and poetry and short story writer, curates this popular reading series in his memory. The readings take place at the newly remodeled Johnson County Central Resource Library from 6-8 p.m. located at 9875 W. 87th Street in Overland Park, Kansas. The readings are free and include light refreshments. Donations to The Writers Place are welcome. The contact number for questions is 913-826-4600.