“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 50 miles east of 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, 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. ThenJennifer Maloney delivered her new poem A Dog with polish and impact. Michael Reiss, David Delaney, and host David Yockel, Jr. completed the evening.
Thanks again to Ken at Before Your Quiet Eyes ! We hope to see everyone on May 10th when Just Poets member Mina Hatami will be our featured reader.