How to Catch a Falling Knife


Like an album of photographic negatives, this book is transformed by light, inhabited by family, illness, mortality, and faith. Daniel Johnson hammers plain speech into exquisite song that is celebratory, mysterious, and elegiac. This transfixing collection resounds with what's left unsaid.

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Like an album of photographic negatives, this book is transformed by light, inhabited by family, illness, mortality, and faith. Daniel Johnson hammers plain speech into exquisite song that is celebratory, mysterious, and elegiac. This transfixing collection resounds with what's left unsaid.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"How to Catch a Falling Knife is a perfect title for this book: there is danger, playfulness, impossibilities made possible, and surprise, in varying doses, in every poem! Most of all though, what I end up loving most about these spare, intense poems, is their heart, their urgent, nutty, burning, utterly whole heart."—Thomas Lux

"To enter the world of Daniel Johnson’s How to Catch a Falling Knife is to enter a playful, celebratory, real, and dangerous place...[Johnson’s] clean, pared down diction recreates real life through the lens of time passed...fearful yet warm, familiar."–Gently Read Literature

"With slow imagery, fresh syntax, and dry diction, Daniel Johnson crafts a poetry that hunts absence like an animal in the quiet woods."–The Weekly Dig

"It's not easy to make interesting poems, yet How to Catch a Falling Knife is full of them...I promise you'll be surprised and gratified by what you discover."–Rumpus

"The greatest strength in How to Catch a Falling Knife, Daniel Johnson's first collection of poems, is its chosen silences. While that may sound like strange praise, this book's sparseness gives it a paradoxical power where the poet's ability to know what not to say and when allows what he does say to starkly shine..."–New Pages

"Fans of poets as disparate as Troy Jollimore, Dean Young and Billy Collins will love Johnson's How to Catch a Falling Knife—a mournful but wry homage to a childhood in the Rust Belt, to the subtle dangers of family, to overpowering love, to so many things. Johnson's voice is clear, distinct, and he creates an indelible world that could not have existed without his verse."–Dave Eggers

“Daniel Johnson's collection reads like a contemporary creation mythfanciful and funny and full of strong imagery, poignant surprises, narratives that lodge in the mind at the same time that they zoom us into unexpected, unpredicted places. These poems feel at once deeply introspective and completely at home in the public sphere, shaping and reshaping the sensibility of our times, introducing us to a new poetry, a voice for which we've been waiting without knowing it. This is a memorable collection by an important new poet.”—Laura Kasischke

“Daniel Johnson's debut book has an inventive exuberance of imagery that is startling and ominous. He gives us a beautifully unpredictable account of the everyday dangers among which body and spirit must move. And he celebrates the everyday, too, with great generosity of spirit and an energetic love of our baffling, irrepressible, unbearable lives.”—Reginald Gibbons

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781882295791
  • Publisher: Alice James Books
  • Publication date: 6/1/2010
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 1,455,539
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Johnson's poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies including The Best American Poetry 2007, The Iowa Review, American Letters & Commentary, and I Have My Own Song for It: Modern Poems of Ohio. Johnson is the founding director of 826 Boston and teaches writing in public schools, hospitals, and prisons. He lives with his wife in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Read an Excerpt

From "Hungry for Wonder":

Smoke smeared the sky.
the sun was a hole,
but my mother wouldn't believe

the river was burning.
Another drowned twin,
a two-headed perch: perhaps,

but water, brown and crooked
as it was, still wouldn't burn.
Must be a mill caught fire, my mother said.

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Table of Contents

Accounting for the Wren, the Rocket, and the Immaterial 3

First 7

Visitation 8

North Life 9

Lightweight Champion of the World 10

My Father the Small Town Sadist 11

Child's Song 12

Do Unto Others 13

Steel Valley Songbook, Volume I 14

Flight 16

The Reflection of All Visible Light 17

Errata 21

Insomniac's Psalm 23

Her Body Is a White Thing in the Sun Now 24

0 25

1:00 AM 26

For Ebele 27

Late for Dinner with Kenji and Yoon 28

Apt. 2 30

House Warming 31

Ghazal 32

After Words 33

To Catch a Falling Knife 37

For Osia 39

Inheritance 40

Daniel 41

Prayer for the Collector of Small Animal Skulls 42

Miniature 43

One Hand Knows Not What the Other Does 45

Description of a Badly Drawn Horse 47

Who I Wasn't 48

Father Song 49

Ad Infinitum 50

After Life 51

A Pair of Dirty Glasses 52

When It's Time 55

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