"The compost of our past transgressions
forms fodder for new life.
Our roots spread deeper as we draw
rekindled strength
beneath a bed of grass."

Part of the lure of modern poetry for aspiring writers stems from its freedom of form and function. Almost anyone armed with at least a crayon can compose a "poem" by scribbling a few words together and declaring it as such. After all, without a set criteria who can argue that what was created is not a unique style of verse? But to be recognized by the majority of readers as being true poetry, a piece usually must touch our hearts or funny bones, cause us to think deeply, or stir up emotionally-charged memories in a structured way that ordinary prose cannot. Happily, Johnson's simple yet beautiful selections in his latest collection manage to do all three.

Divided into four chapters that each focus on broad topics such as "Natural Things" or "The Human Element," the author invites his readers into a rural landscape replete with barn cats, horses, soaring sugar maples, rain showers, country roads, and bird song. Some, like the introspective "A Bed of Clover," burst forth with a thoughtful beauty, while others such as "Collage de Fromage" are pure tongue-in-cheek. The poet's academic background peeks through in various allusions throughout his work such as when he mimics Edgar Allan Poe's verse patterns in "That Time of Year," but this never leads to pretension. In fact, "Reading a Poem" aptly illustrates his philosophy and writing style of avoiding wordiness and keeping his poetry accessible to all.

With poems ranging from "Noah's Song" and "Monstrous Gluk and Gobbledygook," which seem to somehow blend Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein with a dollop of Dr. Seuss stirred in for good measure, to more placid musings that recall Robert Frost or even the prose of Gladys Taber's Stillmeadow books, Johnson's excellent collection of verse is a quiet masterpiece.

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