Melissa C. Johnson
Melissa C. Johnson is a Southern poet living in Central Pennsylvania where she serves as Associate Vice Provost and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education at The Pennsylvania State University. Her first poetry chapbook, Looking Twice at the World, was published by Stepping Stones Press and the South Carolina Poetry Initiative. Diode Editions published her second chapbook, Cancer Voodoo, poems from which have been featured at American Life in Poetry and Verse Daily. Her poetry has also been published at NELLE, Waccamaw, Borderlands, The Cortland Review, The Northern Virginia Review, and elsewhere. For more information, visit her website at https://www.melissacjohnson.com/
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Cancer Voodoo grew out of the experience of my mother’s illness and death from lung cancer and my own attempts to come to terms with that loss. I was trying to write about the experience of watching a parent die, an experience that most people will have, but also about the particulars of my mother’s life and death and her family history. There’s a kind of madness of grief — the way that it unhinges and unmoors — that I’m trying to capture. I’m also trying to get at how illness and death re-arrange and collapse time — how they create a milestone that all other events gather around. With some of these poems, I constructed a loose, scattered form to get closer to the way that grief implodes and dissolves. In others, tidier and more traditional structure becomes a way of representing the control I’m trying to find or to create as I experience and reflect on grief and loss. One of the main themes of the sequence is a search for solace in the absence of religious belief. Another is the inability to fully know others, even those whom we love the most and the longest.