Kimberly Johnson

April 25, 2019 Johnson Kimberly


Heaven-selvage, twilight eyelet opened
Through the wind-
Scrubbed drab at the ridgeline,

Splash of freshet nestled into stone,
What with bone-
Dry, blasted me have you to do?

Gentiana verna, do not intimate
Of spring,
Do not rouse the secret

Bee that waggles in my breast to honey
To your hue,
What have you to do with me?

Do with me, flash lapis lazuli
Swatched from the hem
Of some Flemish madonna,

What you will, O do you subsume me
In deepwater blue.
Do me cerulean through.

When you welkin me, whelm like a brigand,
Like the whole couloir’s
A blue desire before whose force

My will must break. Blossom, will I break
Faith with this rough-
Cast, this cherished chaff,

This earthbound habit for your unearthly?,
Can I forsake
This my sure estate for your ec-

Stasies on spec, for your fathomless X?

Kimberly Johnson, renaissance scholar, translator of ancient Greek and Latin, and prize-winning poet, exegetes the syntactical strategies and etymology of William Butler Yeats’ “Politics” and Emily Dickinson’s #124 (“Safe in their Alabaster Chambers”) in her brilliant essay, “Reading and Writing Outside Thebes: In Praise of Syntax .” “Syntax, denoting the order and arrangement of words,” Johnson notes,  “is derived from the Greek prefix συν-, meaning “together,” and τάσσω, which broadly indicates the act of arranging (think “taxidermy”: an arrangement of skin; or “taxonomy”: an arrangement of objects by name) but chiefly and specifically denotes the drawing up of troops into a battle array, or the mustering of military forces into strategic arrangement.”  In her incisive analysis of Yeats’ and Dickinson’s  syntactical mustering of words and phrases in “Politics” and “124,” Johnson reveals the verbal genius behind the word placement in these two poems and the critical role word order plays in succeeding to stage meaning, tone, and irony in their verbal presentation and “maneuvers.”