Poet Karen Johnson

In celebration of National Poetry Month, members of the Guilford Poets Guild were invited to share their thoughts about poetry and the life of a poet. Here’s what poet Karen Johnson had to say:

How did you come to being a poet?
My mother read poetry to us from a little book called Silver Pennies, which she was awarded as a spelling bee prize in grade school. I was always making up rhymes, as a little child.

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
Not really, but I think it had to do with cherry blossoms.

What else do you write besides poetry? Do you have other creative pursuits?
Besides poetry I write sermons, or, persuasive essays of a religious nature. Since semi-retirement, I’ve taken up working with stained glass, which I find frustrating and fascinating, all at once.

What has been the defining moment in your life as a poet/writer?
I am currently working with a group here in Virginia, Ridgeline Writers. They are mostly short fiction writers. But they tolerate me and are have been encouraging (read nagging) me to get published. Hopefully next year!

How long have you been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and what’s that like?
I joined members of the Guild before it was the Guild in 1978. Ed Walker was there, and Gwen Gunn. Later Gordy Whiteman. I dropped out in the later 80s when my children were growing up, and renewed my affiliation when on a sabbatical. I so appreciate the process of sharing work and receiving criticism, and the challenges of our work with Madison Art and Florence Griswold Museum. I think I’ve done some really good work as ekphrastic poetry.

What inspires your writing today?
Ah, I’m in a lull. Have written a few things “in the time of plague.” Depressing and not very good. Also wanting to write about working with glass, but it isn’t telling me any secrets yet.

Describe your poem-writing process.
Usually write in response to some line inspired by anything, write furiously, set it aside, revise and revise and revise.

Where do you like to write? With what?
In bed with a pencil.

Who are you favorite poets and authors?
Maxine Kumin, Denise Levertov, Sue Monk Kidd

What book are you currently reading? (poetry or not)
Just finished Harold Kushner’s Living a Life that Matters.

Any last words?
That’s all folks!


After living almost her whole life in CT, Karen Gronback Johnson and her husband retired three years ago to a farm in the mountains of Virginia. In her previous life Karen was a member of the clergy in East Haven, a police chaplain, and co-founder of East Haven United. She has been affiliated with members of Guilford Poets Guild since 1978 and now works with the Ridgeline Writers. Karen grows a lot of their own food and has recently taken up stained glass work.


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