October 1, 2022

Degrees of Freedom, by Nicholas Johnson

Review by Stephen Massimilla New York: Bright Hill Press In Degrees of Freedom, Nicholas Johnson displays a liberating knack for navigating a labyrinth with no exit. His tone is sophisticatedly colloquial, his purport archly sincere. It is truly a testament to the quality of his work that I can describe it only in oxymoronic terms. […]


You think for the echoing reason that thunderstartles your back, like a cat—wish you knewwhere the fire was made. Think of birds without wings, lazy atomsin the mountain’s sunlit hairwaiting for sky. Beyond, black stars boundto perish inendlessness. Flesh of time, the ash-tide slowlyswells. Your pulsedrowns in it. Stephen MassimillaStephen Massimilla is a poet, scholar, professor, […]


It makes us into what we recognizeof ourselves but supposedly are not,which means suppressing…how this time, the reputedly reflectivemonologist was rippled so strangelythat he didn’t even think he resembledthe double—a phantom as unawareas the hair the hand runs through,seen from such an anglethat it was jostled by black-backed gulls shadowboxingacross the docks and shiveredby prismatic […]


-After Neruda The dead of one abysm, shadows of one chasm,of such depth, defined the highest measureof your magnitude, Macchu Picchu,your true, most all-consumingdeath: From the quarried rocks,from the scarlet turrets,from the staggered stairways of the aqueducts,you tumbled down as if into autumnto a single death.Today the hollow air no longer cries,no longer acquainted with […]


—After Neruda Mighty death beckoned me many times:it was like invisible brine in the waves,and what that inscrutable savor disseminatedwas like half-sinking, half-rising heightsor vast constructions of snowdrift and wind. I came to the iron edge, to the narrowsof air, to the burial shroud of farmland and stone,to the star-scattered void of the final steps—and […]