“With the wisdom of a sage, Johnson crafts poems that showcase the saving grace of small moments”
—James Crews, author of Kindness Will Save the World
The Call Home
by Susan Johnson
Finalist of The Poetry Box Chapbook Prize, 2022
The Call Home invites the reader to accompany the poet in natural world settings—lying alongside a caterpillar outside her childhood home on a military base in North Carolina, listening for the silence of salty tides of the Rappahannock River at her parents’ final home in Virginia, discovering salmon nests in the Cle Elum River near her home in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Grounded in these settings, this collection binds five generations of women, revealing an undeniable rhythm of love and suffering, a persistent pulse as they share and bear witness to patterns of beauty, connection, tragedy, loss, and continuity. These poems resonate with the tender relationships among members of all communities, all listening for the call home.
Early Praise for The Call Home:
Susan Johnson’s poems call us home in the best of ways, back to our rightful place in the natural world, back to the simple hopes and joys of life, like planting new carrots/ in the garden, one tiny/ seed at a time. With the wisdom of a sage, she crafts poems that showcase the saving grace of small moments, how they can redeem even our darkest hours, teaching us that an unguarded heart/ is the only way.
—James Crews, author
of Kindness Will Save the World: Stories of Compassion & Connection
Susan Johnson writes with grace and gracefulness about family, nature, even pain and horror. Her poems glow with an almost holy sense of nostalgia and forgiveness, sometimes sad, always gentle. Accessible and engaging, Johnson’s book is a finely crafted antidote to the world right now.
—Susan Blair, author of What Remains of a Life,
editor of The Shrub-Steppe Poetry Journal
The poems in Susan Johnson’s The Call Home ask us to pay attention to the human relationships in our lives, particularly family. For good or ill, those relationships matter. If good, we revere them. If painful, we must understand and forgive. Again and again, the poems turn to the healing powers of the natural world in times of trial. In the closing poem, “Teach Me,” from which the title is drawn, the poet encounters a blue heron in the wild and asks: Heron, please teach me./ Teach me patience to know my needs are met./ Teach me grace to rise with love./ Teach me purpose to serve community./ Teach me stillness to hear the voice of god./ Teach me quiet consent to the call home. Another poem, “In Time We Know,” uses weaving as a figure to conjoin Love and Suffering: And thus in time we know/ the two have bound us whole—/ a rough and lovely cloth. Actually, that metaphor could apply to the book as a whole: a tapestry of words bespeaking pain, love and much, much wisdom.
—Ed Stover, author of Homecoming,
President, The Yakima Coffeehouse Poets,
The Call Home goes deep, revealing Susan Johnson’s love of the truth and her need to tell it. Brave, vulnerable, and willing to explore—even if what she finds is difficult—Johnson offers a religion of noticing things, a spirituality of paying attention. Look at this she says to us, pointing out things that go on in the world: Look at this broomstick horse tied to a water spigot. Look at this hot iron glide, pressing each cuff with steamy precision. At these new carrots planted one tiny seed at a time. Look as wildfire threatens, as smoke seeps through the screen. Look at grief drifting down from green needled branches, from the trembling throats of birds.
These poems are intimate, raw, moving, and in moments, willfully hopeful. You’ll find things you need in this searching collection: clarity, heartbreak, simplicity, tenderness, joy, strangeness, beauty, loss. And you’ll discover some things about forgiveness, about learning to love one another, even when it’s hard.
Rich in feeling, profound in insight, these are poems you will remember long after closing the book.
—Terry Martin, author of Wishboats,
The Secret Language of Women, and The Light You Find
About the Author:
Susan Johnson writes in the mountain town of Roslyn, Washington, where she has lived with her husband and their children for over forty years. She hikes daily with family and friends on trails along the Cle Elum River Valley. As a spokeswoman for a Roslyn citizens’ group, she worked with others to promote sustainable forestry and to protect wildlife habitat. Susan taught in the local schools and university and held leadership roles in state and national writing initiatives. She was named the 2009 Washington State Teacher of the Year.
Susan is grateful to be active in a vibrant poetry community. Her work has appeared in Cirque Journal: A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim, Earth’s Daughters, Poetic Shelters, Poets Unite! LiTFUSE @10 Anthology, Raven Chronicles, Rise Up Review, The Shrub-Steppe Poetry Journal, WA129+, Washington Poetic Routes, Windfall: A Journal of Poetry of Place, and Yakima Coffeehouse Poets.