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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1690051-Interview-with-poet-Melvin-D-Johnson
Rated: · Interview · Cultural · #1690051
Cool interview with a local poet from Toledo, Melvin Douglas Johnson.
Recently, I had the opportunity to do an online interview with poet Melvin Douglas Johnson. Within the past few months, he has been a featured poet at the Collingwood Arts Center, Vocal InKorporated, and Ground Level Coffeehouse poetry readings.

Lorraine: Have you always lived in Toledo?

Melvin: Except for the time that I spent in the Air Force, I have always lived in Toledo. I was born and raised here. This is home for me. When I retired from the Air Force, Toledo is where I wanted to come back to. My family, my friends, my roots, most of my childhood memories are centered here. I love Toledo.

Lorraine: How long have you been writing poetry?

Melvin: The first poem that I remember writing was when I was in the third grade, however, I can recall an aunt, my mother's youngest sister, reading and reciting poetry to me during my preschool years.

Lorraine: What do you usually write poetry about?

Melvin: I don't know if there is any particular subject that I usually write about. Poetry is many things to me. It is a way of self-expression. I guess I would have to say that I usually write about things that impact me, affect me in different ways, whether it is soicial injustice, politics, relationships, or just thoughts that come to mind when I hear a certain song or see something that is thought provoking.

Sometimes writing is like therapy for me. It helps me put things into perspective. I have this belief that when you break things down to the lowest common denominator, that's the bottom line. Poetry and music help me do that. They help me deal with the things that go on inside of me so that I do not become overwhelmed by the things that go on outside of me, many of which I have no control over. I believe that poetry and music are always up in my head!

Lorraine: Who are some of your favorite poets?

Melvin: I have read a lot of poetry anthologies, and I have enjoyed the works of a lot of poets. The three poets that usually come to mind, however, when asked who some of my favorite poets are, are Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, and Nikki Giovanni. Of those three, the one that I have read the most is Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Lorraine: What is one of your favorite poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar?

Melvin: Hhmm, I have so many, A Negro Love Song; We Wear The Mask; The Spellin' Bee. If I had to pick one though, it would probably be . . . Liza, Liza, praise de lawd, don't you know de days a' brawd, . . . that's one that the aunt I mentioned earlier would recite to me. Sometimes she would wake me up in the morning reciting that one and putting my name in the place of "Liza". (I am smiling now ~ very fond memory).

Lorraine: Do you think you connect with him more because he is from Dayton, Ohio?

Melvin: I think that I connect to him primarily because I can relate to a lot of his poetry. I like the way that he captures the black experience in America. I have a book entitled, Lyrics of Lowly Life, The Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar. It's excellent reading!! Also, I do like the fact that he is from Dayton.

Lorraine: What instruments do you play?

Melvin: I don't play any instruments. I wish I could. I used to be a disc jockey. I collect old records and have a pretty extensive jazz collection. I'm going to be spinning some of my albums and there will also be live jazz. Bobby Lucas and Katrina Barnhill, two of the best saxophonists that Toledo has to offer have agreed do a couple of live sets. We're still putting it together and will get information out on it soon.

Lorraine: Do you combine jazz music with reading your poetry?

Melvin: A lot of times I write and perform poetry to music. They are so connected. I believe that most poets have a tune going on in their head while they're writing.

Lorraine: Do you think that writing poetry offers the poet a process of healing?

Melvin: I strongly believe that!! I know that it does for me. Also, I used to teach poetry writing to kids at an alternative learning school where I was a counselor, and in a youth intervention group for "at risk" youth. It was amazing to see the changes they made by using poetry as a way of self expression. I was humbled by those experiences.

Lorraine: Have you been published?

Melvin: I have self published three books of poetry, "Didn't Yo Mother Teach You Better Than That"; "Oh Say Can You See"; and "Blue Notes/Love Quotes, A Book Of Love Poems". I am finishing up another one entitled, "Tearz From The Hood". In this one, I have also included some short stories.

I have a cd out entitled, "All Directions" and am waiting for tracks to be placed to another one that I did with some friends and fellow poets entitled, "Urban Watch Poetry: We Speak The Truth".

Also, I am thinking about doing another book of love poems. About a hundred years ago, I started writing a book based on one of my poems, "The Last Farewell" and hope, someday, to get back to that. Sometimes procrastination is my nemesis!!!

Power To The Poets

power be to the poets
the wordsmiths
speakers of the truth
their words ride on
the cusp of the wind
ebb with the tides
fall with the rain drops
they can be like thunder and lightning
ever so frightening
make you laugh
make you smile
or bring you to tears
they can soothe your fears
or create fears you didn't even know you had
power be to the poets
their words are like schemes
taking you on a lyrical excursion
on a magic carpet to places
that live only in dreams
like worlds that exist
outside of the realm of comprehension
leaving you in animated suspension
saying, "damn that s**t was tight"
as their words take flight
throughout your head
penetrating through you
straining your imagination
to the edge
of all there is
or ever will be
power be to the poets
the wordsmiths
speakers of the truth
that live inside of you
and live inside of me

© Copyright 2010 Toledo Poetry Examiner (lfcipriano at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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