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Publisher: New York Quarterly Press (March 1, 2023)
Paperback: 80 pages
What People Say About Far from New York State
Matthew Johnson offers a rich tapestry of stories drawn from the lives of historical figures, professional athletes, musicians, and more, to address divisions, struggles, triumphs, and realities. He writes, "the long cool is whittled down to the essentials of the essentials," carving out an image of America in all its smooth and sharp edges. His language moves from direct to musical, narrative to lyric, in a style that interrogates as it engages and invites.
—Grant Clauser, author of Muddy Dragon on the Road to Heaven
With its brilliant homages to Nas and Red Foxx, Matthew Johnson's Far from New York State creates a true jazz story, a collage, or a jigsaw puzzle—it's full of play and worthy of being read…Johnson opens up a space and lets the poems tell their own story.
—Rochelle Spencer, author of AfroSurrealism: The African Diaspora's Surrealist Fiction
Even from 35,000 feet, baseball diamonds look like baseball diamonds. In Johnson's poems, you can still see the diamonds, though they are sketched on the blacktop with chalk or manifest by construction cones and fire hydrants on the minds of neighborhood kids. In the same way the giants of Jazz and Blues emerge from the poetic landscape and lend us a couple of bars, enliven and vivify a world that refuses to go sterile, because it has deep roots. Matthew Johnson's poetry gives these roots rain and mixes the demotic and the mythic to create a landscape of verse where one can imagine Duke Ellington and Satchel Page tipping caps to each other before disappearing into the poetic mist of Johnson's rich language that roils beneath each line. When the myth and the mist have cleared you can still see the baseball diamonds, the kids still pretending to be Hideo Nomo and Sammy Sosa, you can faintly hear the blues, and smell the newly oiled leather.
—Aaron Dylan Graham, author of Blood Stripes
Publisher: Kelsay Books (June 29, 2019)
Paperback: 71 pages
What People Say About Shadow Folk and Soul Songs
Shadow Folk and Soul Songs offers an imaginative universe populated by the common man, looming historical figures, and contemporary interrogations of self and nation. From Phillis Wheatley to Sojourner Truth, Langston Hughes to Hip Hop, these poems traverse deep time and the soul and song of America. The lyric expressions "stir like thunder in the soul."
—Dr. Noelle Morrissette, author of James Weldon Johnson's Modern Soundscapes
The poems of Matthew Johnson’s remarkable first book are vibrant, restless and yes, provocative. Their language deftly calls forth rich cultural perspectives of today and days gone by. From Sinatra to Paul Laurence Dunbar, from Charlie Parker to the Jim Crow South, Shadow Folk and Soul Songs cast a thoughtful net. This impressive bounty is both timely and urgent in addressing the seasons of our lives.
—Larry Moffi, founder and publisher of Settlement House and author of Crossing the Line: Black Major Leaguers, 1947-1959
Review by Julio Carlos:
Shadow Folk and Soul Songs is nothing more, nothing less than a rhymed revolution. A call of pride. A shout to remember the value and the strength of all Negroes, the African-American culture and a screeching appeal to the understanding of a nation as a whole.
This short, very well woven work is powerful and deeply honest.
As a reader, you feel the emotions that Matthew Johnson forces onto you through the imagery effortlessly constructed in the verses. Themes such as music (jazz, blues, rock, rap and hip-hop), religion, slavery, racism, social neglect, discrimination are professionally portrayed in strong, civilized way, letting the reader immerse in the “deep South”, and suburbs roots. It’s beautiful and inspiring.
Read the full review, and more book reviews by Julio Carlos, at: https://scribblesworth.wordpress.com/