Billboards in the Wasteland

Billboards in the Wasteland

by Jacob Johanson


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"In Jacob Johanson's latest book of poetry, Billboards in

the Wasteland, two strong poems reach out from the

middle of the book that illuminate Jacob's reckoning

with the legacies of two late masters he admires, Kell

Robertson and Lew Welch. Sure, they're formidable

presences but their influence has never overwhelmed

Jacob's journey as a poet. His tributes to them are

substantial and passionate. Jacob writes from the

burial grounds of the Shawnee, the Kansa, the Osage.

In one short powerful poem, a haiku almost, Jacob

imagines the Lakota admitting the violated spirit of

Tamir Rice to their circle. In another poem, he "saw

an oncoming storm/divide the desert/into before and

after/just to learn/the importance of now." There are

long drives across an insensate America he assures us

with vibrant, plain-spoken language, that its wrecked

and beautiful mythology is still intact, that wastelands

are in the eye of the beholder."

-John Macker, author of The Blues Drink Your

Dreams Away, Selected Poems

1983-2018 and Atlas of Wolves.

"There's something in the waters of the Kansas / Missouri

borders these days, and Jacob Johanson is drinking

freely of it, which is to our benefit. He is the man of

early middle age, realizing regrets, well entrenched in

daily routine, with lots of time ahead to contemplate.

His poems can be read as, "...old constellations on old

stars," familiar territory explored with new eyes. There

are the women, just out of understanding, to tango

with in minefields. There are the Shawnee sages, as

well as an exchange with our friend the Moon, no sage

at all in these pages. Johanson, writing in, "... an era of

forgotten atrocities," expresses the fears, hopes, and

memories of those often without a voice. In Billboards,

the signs are there for all to see, and to find a kindred


-Cheryl A. Rice, author of Love's Compass

"Jacob Johanson's poems are tiny billboards illuminating

the consciousness of Americans in the early 21st Century

with quick hit, short lined, revelatory poems full of

humor, hope and horror. His poems unite the rational

and the surreal. A man finds god on a small square of

paper that melts on the tongue another is moved to

write by an angel thankful there's enough change on

the dashboard to make it home. Reading Jacobson I

find myself angry and laughing sometimes simultaneously.

For example, open this book to page 27 and read Blowing

Out Headspace, Move Along. Despite the craziness of

our culture, he ends the poem with these tender lines:

"close your eyes/and you can feel/I promise/ individual

blades of grass/pushing between your toes." That's

soul brothers and sisters. That's soul."

-John Knoll, Black Mesa Blues (Spartan Press, 2020)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781952411328
Publisher: Spartan Press
Publication date: 09/28/2020
Pages: 84
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.20(d)

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