During calendar 2017, two books, authored by J. Chester Johnson, were published: Now And Then: Selected Longer Poems (St. Johann Press) and Auden, the Psalms, and Me (Church Publishing of the Episcopal Church). On October 29th, 2017, Johnson presented on both books at Poets House in downtown Manhattan in New York City. The well-known and influential writer and poet, Cornelius Eady, introduced J. Chester Johnson and provided associated commentary.
Now And Then is a set of longer poems written by Johnson over a period of approximately four decades. The nine pieces in the volume range from an interracial murder in Arkansas along the Mississippi River Delta to the martyrdom of the 20th century prophet, Martin Luther King, Jr. Johnson has called Now And Then “the closest I will ever come to writing an autobiography.”
Auden, the Psalms, and Me is a non-fiction book that tells the story of the retranslation of the psalms contained in the current Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church. W. H. Auden served as poet on the drafting committee for this retranslation from 1968 to 1971, at which point Auden decided to return to England and was replaced by J. Chester Johnson, who remained the poet on the drafting committee from 1971-79, when the revised Book of Common Prayer was published, including the new version of the psalms. Among other germane matters, the book discusses the correspondence that Johnson received from Auden on the retranslation project and the history of the psalms that have been incorporated into the Book of Common Prayer since 1549. This retranslation has become a standard with others adopting these psalms for their worship and service books.
Click on the video below for the audio presentation, including Cornelius Eady’s introduction and commentary and the entirety of J. Chester Johnson’s prepared remarks.