“At least she could save a few aimless men…” said Elizabeth Johnston of the Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy in her poem, “Dorothy Tells It with a Sigh.” Johnston was the featured reader at the Just Poets monthly poetry reading at Before Your Quiet Eyes bookstore Wednesday night. Dorothy wasn’t the only one to get a makeover. Barbie and Ken, and a few years prior, Medusa, underwent the keen eye of the featured reader. “And I write about real women” Johnston went on to say. And real men. Besides her clever takes on pop culture icons and feminist spins on mythical stories, she also plumbed soul-searching depths that were not in Oz or Olympus but in her home town of Ligonier, PA., a small country town a few miles southeast Pittsburgh. In her poem “Ligonier” she addresses heroin overdoses that claim family members against the backdrop of a steel-and-coal world where “my grandfather doesn’t understand addiction…” Yet, Johnston approaches her poetry as if you were on the phone with her: easy, conversational, yet with a newness and acumen that keeps you on the line, her lines. Her work is smart and leaves a lasting psychic impact.
The open mic portion brought in Joel Lesses, Buffalo’s Scott Williams (who gave a great reading of a railroad poem about his father), Jim Jordan, David Michael Nixon, Bart White, David Purdy, Mitch Valente (his poem “Robin,” a tribute to his father, was exceptional), Roy Bent, Jennifer Maloney (her new poem “A Dog” was delivered with polish and impact), Michael Reiss, David Delaney, and David Yockel, Jr. Just Poets’ host of the evening.
Thanks again to Ken at Before Your Quiet Eyes as well as David Delaney for writing the review! We hope to see everyone on May 10th when Just Poets member Mina Hatami will be our featured reader.