African American Appalachian Poet to Perform at Catawba College
September 29, 2004
She’s a poet, a performer and an activist, and the public is invited to see her in all three roles when African American Appalachian Poet Patricia A. Johnson performs at Catawba College Monday, October 25. Her free program entitled, “Somebody’s Child,” is slated for 7:30 p.m. in Tom Smith Auditorium on campus and is jointly sponsored by Catawba’s Honors Program and the Sociology Society.;
Johnson, who lives in Elk Creek, Va., is an award-winning performer of poetry. She won the individual competition of the National Poetry Slam held in 1996 in Portland, Oregon, and was a finalist in the 1998 National Poetry Slam Individual Competition held in Austin, Texas.
She is the author of Spirit Rising, a poetry chapbook, and Stain My Days Blue, a full collection of poetry published by Ausdoh Press of Philadelphia, Pa., and the winner of the Sonia Sanchez Award. Her poems appear in Her Words: Diverse Voices in Contemporary Appalachian Poetry; Poetry Slam; Fly Magazine; Appalachian Women’s Journal; Mount Voices; Black Literature in Review; and Lonzie’s Fried Chicken Review.
A graduate of Ferrum College and Virginia Commonwealth University, she serves as executive director of SPARKS (Society of Poets and Artists Rejuvenating Kindred Spirits). She is a Virginia Commission for the Arts Touring Artist, and has been a featured presenter at Virginia Festival of the Book, Appalachian Women’s Alliance, the Asheville Poetry Festival and the Northwest Arkansas Women’s Conference, and at schools and universities throughout the country and abroad.
Dr. Maria Vandergriff-Avery, an assistant professor of sociology at Catawba, heard Johnson perform while attending a National Endowment for the Humanities summer institute this year. She says that Johnson is “mesmerizing” when she performs. To say she has a strong stage presence is understatement, Vandergriff-Avery notes.
Following are two short poems from Johnson’s Stain My Days Blue:
if you had told me
the winter it snowed three feet
the same day my older brother turned ten
and mama sent me out with a bowl
i filled to the brim.
she made snow cream
slick as egg white,
speciallly for my brother
and we sang…
if you had told me then
i would not have believed,
we were poor.
Wind blows light in flames
down the valley bottom,
licks its frigid tongue
against the mountain and laughs.
I am awake to witness.