Now And Then: Selected Longer Poems

The journey through Now And Then begins with an interracial murder in Arkansas along the Mississippi River Delta at the height of the Civil Rights Movement and ends in a martyrdom of the German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, at the Flossenburg concentration

Now and Then by J Chester Johnson

camp near the end of World War II. In between, a long dead and fabled father reappears for a delayed conversation with the poet, and a paean resurrects the transformational prophet, Martin Luther King, Jr.; a New York City riot of the 1960s impels the poet into the authenticity of the lower Eastside, and Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Lazarus and Jonathan Daniels chant their way into history. Home and exile surprisingly have much more in common than a reader would normally believe.

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"The scope of NOW AND THEN is epic. It provides its readers with the same amplitude of intelligence, passion and formal achievement as our great American epics -- Melville's MOBY DICK, Whitmans's LEAVES OF GRASS, and Ginsberg's FALL OF AMERICA. It is a book of fierce spiritual and moral witness, energy and power."

– Lawrence Joseph, award-winning poet, critic, and professor of law

“J. Chester Johnson is one of our country’s literary gems. From his work on the Book of Common Prayer with Auden to his chronicling and advocating for civil rights in the American South of his boyhood, Johnson offers rare glimpses into what William Carlos Williams called ‘news that stays news’. Elegant, truthful, heartfelt, spiritual, beautiful. This is a book to savor and admire. Highly recommend this impressive book.”

– Elizabeth Powell, Editor-in-Chief, Green Mountains Review

“In his latest volume, Now And Then: Selected Longer Poems, Chester Johnson has pushed beyond the boundaries of his shorter work and yet, happily, none of the qualities that make a Chester Johnson poem so distinctive and memorable—their plain speak and verbal music, their erudition and common sense—have been lost in the transition. Here, we encounter a poet as comfortable with narrative as he is with lyric, a poet working at the height of his powers, a poet challenging himself—and us—with poems that are not afraid to engage with the politics and the issues and the events of our time.”

– Davis McCombs, Director, Program in Creative Writing and Translation, University of Arkansas