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Judith Johnson
Judith E. Johnson

September 20, 2005
(Tuesday)

Introduction by Sally Rhodes
8:00 p.m. Reading
Assembly Hall, Campus Center
UAlbany, Uptown Campus
Cities of Mathematics and Desire

Judith Johnson, poet, fiction writer, performance artist, and UAlbany professor, is the author of two books of short fiction and eight books of poetry, the most recent of which is "Cities of Mathematics and Desire" (2005, Sheep Meadow Press, ISBN 1-931-357-97-8). This new volume, which won the Poetry Society of America Di Castagnola Award for best poetry manuscript, reads like a form of spoken opera, with its many characters and conflicts, arias and choral ensembles. The title poem of the collection is a meditation on love, chaos theory, and the poetry of Anna Akhmatova and Guillaume Apollinaire. The speaking voices in that poem include King Kong, Fay Wray, the French poet Gerard de Nerval, and his pet lobster.

"In a time so fraught with demands upon our abilities to think and articulate the given world, this writing moves instantly to confront the presumptions and complex orders of our experience. Its scale and courage are deeply attractive, and the wedding of too often opposed rhetorics, scientific and poetic, is in itself an achievement that merits respect. Its vision is grounded in the power to confront and believe that to be human is the singular freedom and limit of our common life." - Former New York State Poet Robert Creeley

"I want to report that your poem is quite mad and wonderful, and in every way worthy of its great forebears. You've loaded every rift with allusion and information--but I trust the voice that speaks for you and am taken with its passionate authority. You have given the lively spirits who inspired you a worthy habitation. For a work of this daring and magnitude, my feeling is that you should aim at separate publication in a truly handsome format."- Former U.S. Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz

A member of the UAlbany faculty since 1981, Johnson serves currently as Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Director of Honors and Presidential Scholars Programs, and Professor of English and Women's Studies, where she has chaired both departments.

The Ice Lizard

Johnson's first poetry volume, "Uranium Poems" (1969), received the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize. Other collections include "Impossible Buildings" (1972); "The Waste Trilogy," comprised of "The Town Scold" (1977), "Transparencies" (1978), and "Dead's Good Company" (1979); "How the Dead Count" (1978); and "The Ice Lizard" (1992).

"remarkable style, more like a rapid telephone conversation than like anything transcribable on a page, vivifies poems into a flashing strobe-light flicker of the mind…. [She] has a more primitive grip on some instinctive and pre-intellectual babble of language, so that a clear helter-skelter spring of bubbling sounds waters her poems, as if in some pure obligato the poems were accompanying themselves on the lute." - eminent poetry critic Helen Vendler, "New York Times Book Review," on "Impossible Buildings"

"Judith Johnson is a major voice of our time. Sardonicism, anger, grief, love lost, and love earned in blood are intertwined through a master of surrealistic techniques…." - poet David Ignatow in praise of "The Ice Lizard"

Johnson's intermedia installation, "Friedrich Liebermann, American Artist," has been widely exhibited, and is now being developed as a CD-ROM novel. With Brenda S. Webster, Johnson co-edited "Hungry for Light" (1993), the journal of abstract expressionist painter and writer Ethel Schwabacher.

Johnson has served as President of the Board of Associated Writing Programs (AWP), and as President of the Poetry Society of America. Currently, she edits the feminist literary periodical, "13th Moon," and publishes "The Little Magazine," an electronic journal.

Writers Online Magazine Article
Sheep Meadow Press
English Department
Women's Studies Department