Kinesthesia

Kinesthesia

by Stephanie N. Johnson

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780898232523
Publisher: New Rivers Press
Publication date: 12/01/2010
Pages: 90
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author


Stephanie N. Johnson has had numerous publications of individual poems in literary journals, including: Dog Blessings, Crab Creek Review, Water~Stone Review, Massachusetts Review, Low Explosions: Writings on the Body, SASE Wings Anthology, Common Ground Review, Poetry Daily, AGN Online, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and Ice Box.

Johnson as also won 21 awards, grants, and honorariums, including: New Rivers Press MVP, White Eagle Coffee Store Press Chapbook Competition, Minnesota State Arts Board Artist's Inititiative Grant, SASE Writer-to-Writer Mentorship Award, Loft Mentor Series Competition award--Poetry, Academy of American Poets James Write Poetry Prize (Honorable Mention), Gesell Award for Excellence in Poetry, Marcella DeBourg Fellowship Award for Nonfiction, Eleanor b. north poetry Prize, John S. Mikla Memorial Book Award.

Johnson was born in Minneapolis, MN; she has lived in Alaska, and now lives in New Mexico. During the time she wrote these poems, Johnson was also studying alternative and complementary medicine and working as a birth doula.

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Kinesthesia 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
JordanJ More than 1 year ago
Kinesthesia, a perfect name for this collection of poems by Stephanie N. Johnson. Johnson combined her passions while presenting an emotional view of family, especially women. The main characters are clear, mainly the narrator, her mother, and Nona, who I imagine to be her grandmother. Her words are creative and pull the reader in. Johnson takes the complexity of the human body and presents a passionate interpretation of human condition. The reader can easily pick up on the relationships between the characters. From first glance it is clear that the mother has an obsession with appearances, perhaps creating an attention to details which the author is attempting to understand. The author has mastered the ability to say more with less. "She scoops an earth-pocket to cradle the fruit's ribcage and pushes dirt over the seed, hoping for a tree. Abundance." Her words more like paint on a canvas creating perfect imagery. This is the second poetry book I have ever read, and I wish it was my first. I can place myself inside these poems and while I am still not a "poetry person", I did enjoy this collection. I found the first two sections of the book to be the most enjoyable, my favorite of Johnsons' works being "How Hard is It?". I can see how readers may think of Johnson's works to be dark, however I see the beauty of nature being combined through the human body. The emotion Johnson creates can be heavy, but I wouldn't consider all of it to be sad, maybe just content.
Ian-Cole More than 1 year ago
As a scientific term, "kinesthesia" relates to the sense of movement, position, and balance of our bodies. For Stephanie N. Johnson, Kinesthesia becomes an emotional tool used to relate the struggle, but also the beauty, of the change from girl to woman. Her poetry captures the questioning and investigative nature of a child who wants to know what her body and mind are becoming, but also of the woman who knows these things from experience and instinct. Physical imagery pervades the poems in this collection, and the experience of reading them is almost visceral. As a male reader, there were certain poems with which I could not personally relate, such as the poem "Last Night," which deals with the subject of menstruation and the ability to bear children. Despite my own physical inability to give birth to children, however, I could still connect to the poem through the striking imagery and the very real emotions it conveys. The poem turns the idea of menstruation into a "brown bear" that is destroying the house in order to find the pubescent girl who is hiding in the attic. "It's my cycle she's after," declares the speaker, because the bear wants her to "bear" (meaning give birth to them, but also referring to the animal itself) children for her (53). The speaker still represents her youth, though, in her declaration that "I'm not ready to leave this body; / I haven't adjusted to these sexual organs yet, / to the process of them. Shh." While Johnson has created this absurd image of a mother bear trying to recruit a human girl to carry her cubs, she has also infused the poem with realistic emotion and fear. The speaker has only completed the path to sexual maturity in a physical manner, not a mental one. While her body is prepared to give birth, her mind is not. This dichotomy should be relatable to all readers on some level. At some point in the maturation process, we are expected to perform tasks or to make certain leaps that we may not be entirely ready for. These moments can come too quickly and can be truly terrifying - an emotion that comes through strongly in this poem. The collection as a whole is entirely enjoyable and really thought-provoking. Several characters are presented - Nona, mother, sister - who all introduce new themes about growing up and living life. The poem about "Nona's hands," for instance, represents the various roles a person plays throughout her lifetime. "Bathing the children hands" show motherhood. "Tilling the soil hands" demonstrate hard-work. "Dog s-, horse s-, cow s- shoveling hands" represent the dirty, unglamorous parts of life. And, of course, the request: "Be good to me hands" indicates the trust that we place in ourselves and our bodies, and the fear that these ever-present things could betray us at some point. Johnson captures this extremely intimate relationship to the body so completely in these poems that the reader will undoubtedly begin to examine his or her own body in a new light. The wordplay in these poems is fantastic. It is enjoyable to feel the weight of the phrases and images in your mouth, but even more so because of the insight that underlies them.
Tamarajean91 More than 1 year ago
The Fox, Black Hole, Waterweeds, Costume Music, Cartography and Abracadabra are just some titles of the poems in Kinesthesia by Stephanie N Johnson. Her poems take you on a journey starting at childhood and continues as she grow, all the while mentioning the women in her life with the biggest impacts. When she talks about her sister there's almost a feeling of longing, an unanswered question to why she was left behind. When she talks about her mom the impression that comes off is something childish and goofy, full of nonsense and things that are just a little confusing. Finally when she talks about her grandma it comes across as dignified and proud. All these poems justify life and the many different stages one has to go through. Some poems come across as being a little blunt but they are also very much relatable and some are just plain backwards. For example in the poem, How Hard is it? She talks about how to open your rib cage with a pizza cutter and how the heart is. "Pretty hard, a lot like an unripe cantaloupe but not as stiff as a watermelon." Or in Wine Water she talks about sharing a bed with a man and how when they mix (man and woman), "that's all we've become. Man plus Woman equals ditch dirt. And this is supposed to be beautiful, the strongest tonic." Its blunt, relatable and filled with a wide range of imagination behind each and every one of these poems which makes it a pleasure to read.
AllegraReiswig More than 1 year ago
Stephanie N Johnson's debut book, Kinesthesia, is a collection of aesthetically and thematically beautiful poetry that maintains a strong, female voice. None of her poems seem out of place; instead they work together and build off each other, seamlessly transitioning from chapter to chapter. Johnson employs three different visual aspects for each poem that carries through her book: the first category includes poems that are written as solid paragraphs, the second type incorporates poems at varying line lengths, broken into stanzas, and the third style employs poems that flit here and there about the page, creating interesting perceptions. Johnson weaves these three visual approaches throughout the five chapters of Kinesthesia, creating a breezy, effervescent appeal to her readers. The content of each poem varies, and it's hard to describe exactly what all of them mean. However, the inquisitive thoughts of youth and loneliness and uncertainty of life are some of the themes that I noticed. Some of my personal recommendations are "People Who Say Yes," "Waterweeds," "Place of the Girl Body," and "Blunt Helix." My favorite poem is "Tilling the Moon," because not only is Johnson unafraid to use white space to her advantage, but she also plays with language and juxtaposes the sounds of the words within the same sentences. Lines like "steep your shirttails/in bergamot streams/squeeze sadness/from blemish-stained blouses" and "comb the long night/hair of horses, Little Sister/in your hands/hold the hooves/behoove your hands/unvex your fingers/uncurl their veins" are delightful because the poet creates cyclical, sonic delights as each line builds upon the other.
Mulatu More than 1 year ago
Stephanie N. Johnson's latest work, Kinesthesia, is a collection of poetry filled with feminine references and themes of childhood. While the former is certainly not my own area of expertise, I can and did relate to the images and experiences of growing up. As a poet and writer for children, the memories of younger years influence my own work. While we see Johnson's in her poetry as well, she delves much further into her early psyche and unveils how it has shaped her. It is that confessional voice that brings her words to life and allows the images of femininity and childhood to take hold of the reader. One of my favorite poems, and one that I believe encompasses all the strengths in this collection, is "Moon Oil." As for its form, nothing special; the words run from one line to the next like simple prose. Like many of her other poems though, the beauty is not in its setup, but in the content itself. In this poem, the speaker reminisces about watching her mother wax her legs and thinking, as a kid, about someday doing it herself. The wax is then personified as a lover clinging to the residue of other wax: "Can't separate lovers, (Mama) says." From there, the speaker shifts forward in time and, after recalling this whole episode, brings it back to herself. Using beautiful metaphors, she talks about her own skin ("all stars"), eyes ("full moons") and lips ("red crescents"). Good confessionals do that: use memory to generate truth in the present. While some of Johnson's subject matter is unfamiliar to me, that's part of what makes her poems so interesting. I can relate immediately to the childlike atmosphere, but much of the feminine experience is foreign to me. Despite that fact, I would recommend this book to all readers, men and women. Though you guys out there may shy away from it initially, I encourage you to pick up this collection and just read a few selections. You never know- they just might speak to you.
movieman1537 More than 1 year ago
I'll start out this review by getting the obvious out of the way first: I usually don't read books of poetry. That being said, I still found quite a bit to enjoy in reading Kinesthesia by Stephanie N Johnson. The majority of these poems are shorter pieces that reflect on the author's childhood memories of friends, relatives, nature, and many other such nostalgic topics. I've always thought that some of the best poetry stems out of past experiences, as it tends to give the poems a sort of dream-like quality that is very easy to become drawn into. The book starts off with one of my favorites right off the bat, entitled "City of Stomach, City of Throat." I found it to be pretty representative of the other works presented here and thought it was a great reflection on those who are no longer with us. One of the longer pieces included in this collection, "People Who Say Yes" was another highlight for me, as it dealt with the topic of discovering who you are and where you come from in a uniquely detailed fashion. Some of the metaphors and similes she uses paint a vivid life-like feeling in the reader, one that makes us feel as if we are actually there experiencing everything the way the author does here. Overall, this is yet another interesting and entertaining read filled to the brim with consistently well-written poetry that will draw any reader right in.
TysonHill More than 1 year ago
The symbolism starts at the title of Stephanie N. Johnson's "Kinesthesia." In a word, Kinesthesia expresses movement. Throughout "Kinesthesia" Johnson expresses the movement of women in one way or another. Although feminists have been writing on topics such as these for years, Johnson makes the struggles of women a more original topic through her use of imaginative visual images and an expert use of tactile imagery. Among these images, the strongest can be found in her poem "Size matters/1." The poem starts as follows: "Mama measured my brain after school today. She took the whole/ thing out of my skull and set it into the kitchen sink. Some of the/ fluid dripped onto the clean floor," (1-3). Johnson uses this image to express the constant strain on women to examine their mind. The child's mother is determined to make sure her daughter is growing and developing the way a young woman should. These images and themes are consistent throughout the book. The book is not consistent in types of poems. This may be another reason for the title, as it moves from one style to another. Some poems are done through prose, others in a more contemporary form with line-breaks and words scattered across the page. Along with the wide assortment of styles, the poems move from speaker to speaker in a seemingly arbitrary way. Johnson did get carried away with her symbols which may be a turn off for some readers. In her poem "Last night" she compares a prepubescent girl's fear of puberty to being attacked by a bear. The speaker of the poem says about the bear: There was no way she could find me, except for smell, right through the ceiling boards. It's my cycle she's after. (6-9) This fear for most women is nonexistent, at least to the extent of being attacked by a bear, and comes across as over-the-top. But alas, this is poetry, and that allows the writer the freedom of hyperbole.
ShaunMac More than 1 year ago
"Kinesthesia" by Stephanie N. Johnson is a collection of poems primarily focused around the narrator (female), Mama, Nona, and Sister. Because of this, the poems have a very obvious feminist stance with dark undertones. The name "Kinesthesia" is appropriate for this collection of poetry because of the large focus Johnson has on bones, muscles, tendons, and the human body in her poems. In her poem, "Size Matters/2," the narrator says: "Mama says he'll want to size up my heart, so she's going to teach me how to shrink it by eating foods prepared in a certain way. Her heart is smaller than mine because she's been working on shrinking it all her life. Not small enough though, because Mama still doesn't have a man." The symbolism in Johnson's poems is probably her greatest strength. Her focus on the human body brings a slightly darker side to the symbolism and adds an almost twisted quality to the poems. While Johnson's symbolism is very visible in each poem throughout the book, it is not always apparent what she is referencing with her symbolism. I'm not sure that any reader would completely understand where she is going all the time, but for the most part it can be understood by the majority of readers. One of Johnson's greatest strengths is her ability to write disturbing poems, but for many that may also be one of her weaknesses. I personally liked the darker quality that the poems had and found them to be more interesting than an average collection of poems.
CaitlinH More than 1 year ago
Kinesthesia by Stephanie N. Johnson is a well-organized work that primarily focuses on the feminist perspective and childhood. I feel that the order of the poems was very deliberate. I also thought that the poems had a definite and distinguishable dark side - I never thought that one of her poems was very optimistic or positive, but that was part of the charm of the poem. I found each one to be more interesting than the last. Johnson focuses on several individual characters including Nona, the sister, Mama and others and their various experiences. It seems that every poem has a purpose, though it is almost hard to determine sometimes what the purpose is. Despite my occasional confusion while reading, I still enjoyed the poems I was reading. The reader is kind of dropped into a situation and eventually, by the end of the poem, the reader's found their way out and understands what they read a little more. In the poem "How Hard is It?" she begins by saying that her mother taught her how to open her ribcage so she started practicing taking out her own heart. She also describes how she thought "blood would come gushing out. But the heart is pretty hard, a lot like an unripe cantaloupe but not as stiff as a watermelon," which I find to be a very dark line. Comparing cutting out a heart to slicing fruit is interesting and creative. The quality of this book, both inside and out, is excellent. Despite it being printed by a small press in Minnesota, it still stands as strong as a "normal" poetry book printed by any big house around the country.
MJHeying More than 1 year ago
Stephanie N. Johnson has a knack for getting the human senses to come together into a reaction all its own during a reading of her poetry. While I found Johnson's work to be skewed, it was not skewed in a bad way. I thoroughly enjoyed and clung to every word that she wrote because of her ability to catch the reader's attention with her personal and original way of putting things. Each of these poems in "Kinesthesia" works together well and act as if they are telling a continuous story about the life of a girl, a mother, or a grandmother; each type of woman has her own voice in each of these poems which is brought out clearly through her voice. The language that Johnson uses could ultimately leave the reader questioning what the poem is about, but does it the same in each poem, that by the end of the book, a clearer picture is almost visible. I, personally, found some of the poems to be confusing, but when all of the poems are put together, the bigger picture is easier to understand. One of the major reasons that the poems can be considered confusing is that she decided to use random breaks in sentences to switch to the next stanza. Since a person's mind puts in a slight pause when transitioning to the next stanza of a poem, it takes a bit longer to fully comprehend the sentence that Johnson had written. Something that goes along with this is the amount of space between two stanzas, or even two lines. Sometimes, there is only a single return between lines or stanzas, while other times there are three or four returns. However, if we take into account the definition of the word "kinesthesia" which is "awareness of the position and movement of the parts of the body by means of sensory organs (proprioceptors) in the muscles and joints" according to Google, it ties into the strange placement of lines and words. The mind is becoming aware of the position and movement of the parts of the body, or poem. With all this being said, it is only reasonable to say that Stephanie N. Johnson does an exceptional job at grabbing the reader's attention by confusing them, then bringing everything together again into a solid package in such a way that just about any reader could understand in the end.
Tyler_A More than 1 year ago
Perhaps the greatest success of Kinesthesia is that it lives up to its own name. Stephanie Johnson's collection of poetry never fails to unite the themes (and literal, anatomical subjects) of "muscle movement" and the near-mystical sense of memory that the body can possess. In a similar way, a reader may find that the rhythm of the poetry itself-including the measured procession of language and an occasional staccato pause-reflects certain physical actions such as breathing. Sometimes this technique emerges in surprising ways. Many poems struggle to flow naturally, continually interrupted by dashes and spaces; they might even be called verbally laborious, and I have no doubt that the effect is fully intentional. As with many gifted poets, Johnson's diverse lyrical structure is generally well executed, and the poems are not difficult to read. At least initially, the broad palette of subjects explored by Kinesthesia is also rendered with a clear vision. Genealogy and heredity-particularly in regard to female ancestry and female descendents-emerge as a kind of super-trope to connect the various physical references Johnson employs. Within these bounds, she explores the emotional trials and burdens that women of all generations have faced, including psychological issues of self-image and the complex facets of marriage and motherhood. Given the implications of these concepts, a reader shouldn't expect to be treated with "fluff poetry" or even optimistic poetry. Kinesthesia is both personally and historically reflective, its speakers always fluctuating between the memories of lonely grandmothers and the dark epiphanies of young women just reaching maturity. Most poignantly, there is something disturbingly timeless about these themes. As Johnson writes in "City of Stomach, City of Throat," "And my mother and grandmothers - they sleep upright in my throat." Among the most powerful of any lines in Kinesthesia, these remain my favorite due to their obvious yet profound relevance to the work as a whole. A power commonality between all generations of women, however difficult to see across the ages, resonates strongly throughout Johnson's poetry. Despite this intensity, the poems of Kinesthesia do not always allow for their subjects to emerge with clarity. Particularly toward the end of the collection, Johnson seems to get lost in her own imagery and symbolism. Occasionally, this trend makes the actual language almost impossible to decipher, and while I enjoy a beautiful metaphor as much as anyone, it is nevertheless more enjoyable when fully understood. On the other hand, the more cryptic poems in Johnson's work may inspire a revisit. If not, it would be hard to say they are not at least aesthetically intriguing. If one is not bothered by Kinesthesia's more abstract turns, it will undoubtedly provide a powerful experience. Those seeking "pleasant" poetry may wish to pass on this opportunity, as the breadth of female transformations which hold Johnson's interest are not often joyful or triumphant. For the rest, this visceral exploration may just strike a chord worth hearing.
Sebiale More than 1 year ago
Readers of Kinesthesia will recognize three major themes very quickly in Stephanie Johnson's work: a body theme (which is fitting given the title of the work), a family theme-especially mothers-and Nona. Who Nona is...is likely a pointless question. As far as I can determine, "Nona" operates as a stand-in name for whenever Johnson requires one. There is an interesting connection in the name--the word "nona" means nine and is the equivalent in Roman mythology to Clotho, a Greek goddess of fate who spins the thread of life. Nona is a fertility goddess in Roman mythology as well. However, I would not go so far as to believe the "Nona" of Johnson's poems in Kinesthesia is meant to be referring to the goddess, more likely Nona is used to invoke a connection-as a fertility goddess-to mothers. There are two main detractors in this collection, Johnson's prose and special format poetry. With only two exceptions (Costume Music and the titular Kinesthesia) I was unable to receive any sort of impression from her prose poetry works. I should be clear that while I could not receive any particular emotions or messages from her prose poetry, it is only those poems whose content and construction is strange to me-all of the other poems in Kinesthesia-even the special format poems-contain powerful, vivid imagery and are admirable from a stylistic point of view. As for the special formatted poems in Kinesthesia; with the exception of the final poem Tilling the Moon, I felt that the special formatting, while not quite hurtful, didn't help the poems either. Echoing my problem with the content of the lines in Johnson's prose poetry is that I do not always feel a linkage between many of the works and their titles, although that is not a major detriment for me personally. There are epigraphs at the beginning of each of the five chapters, as well as City of Stomach, City of Throat before the first epigraph, which I believe operates as an epigraph for the collection in its entirety. However, with the exception of City of Stomach, City of Throat-and its obvious connection in both title and lines to the body theme of other works in kinesthesia-I do not see a relationship between the epigraphs and the poems that follow them. I feel that while her poetry work is impressive, and many of her poems in this collection can leave an impression with their distorted body imagery and warped view of relationships, there are simply too many works that are obscure to me for me to rate the collection high overall. I would not recommend this collection for casual reading, but if you're looking for something to chew over in your mind, this may be something to check out.
Yuka-ko More than 1 year ago
Stephanie N Johnson is a poet who studied bodywork at the Scherer Institute of Natural Healing. Her collection of poetry is titled "Kinesthesia" combines her passions of writing and body movement. A woman is a focus of each poem. Nona, Mama are the main characters other characters includes grandmother, Sister, Father and the narrator. Nona and Mama are the most interesting characters. They are very different from each other. Nona is the old lady and her husband is gone. The poem "Telling season," (38) compared her to a machine breaking down. The poem describes her muscles grinding. Movement is not easy for Nona in her old age. Her husband is not there to fix or love her. The central theme in this poem is the loneliness. Johnson is using very descriptive language to tell the story of Nona's life alone. Johnson writes "But the old man is gone who once cared for her calves who held her hand, the lever connected to the old woman's heart." The character returns in the poem "Nona Captivates a Young Librarian." Johnson uses excellent word choice to describe the librarian's affection toward Nona. She writes "He composes dialogue in the long stem of his brain. Thoughts blossom. Will he pluck the wild flowers of his mind?" Mama is a recurring character throughout the book. These poems are very abstract. Mama has qualities of a human, but she is also described as an object. In "Spin Cycle," (21) the author writes about exercising with Mama. Exercise is an activity that requires physical or mental exertion, an action performed by a human. The poem continues to say that the author and Mama detach their legs and arms and spin them all night in order to exercise them. The image this poem creates is almost disturbing. The narrator and Mama are human but they are described as an object or thing. The writing style that Johnson uses is varied. Some of her poems are written in paragraph form, while others are written in standard poetic form. She uses different line spacing in some of her poems, such as "Design."(15) She uses spacing to convey the passage of time, perhaps she is growing older. The indentation of the lines in this poem makes the poem easier to visualize. For example, the line referring to the childhood is placed in the right side at the end because it is talking about the past. The line referring to the middle of the road is placed in the center. The poems work well together, each character follows a central theme. Johnson's strength is her ability to find new ways to describe things and create incredible images with words. However, many of her poems are too abstract and confusing for the reader. They might not be able to relate. The images are powerful, but they can be disturbing.
intro_to_publishing More than 1 year ago
Kinesthesia is defined by the Random House dictionary is the sensation of movement or strain in muscles, tendons, and joints; muscle sense. Kinesthesia in poem by Stephanie N. Johnson is: "At the sewing machine the body is singing. The mind of the seamstress ignores all signs of thirst, hunger, loneliness. Breathe. This time breathe when you're making the costume. Sewing machine needle: remind us again of how our bodies chant with threads. Have you ever wondered what it's like to be threaded? It's happening right now, with you and everything in this room." "Kinesthesia" is a more than appropriate title for Johnson's poetry collection containing the aforementioned poem by the same title, as muscles, bones, organs, and other body parts are recurring symbolism in the poems. With "Kinesthesia", Johnson indirectly tells the story of a few women, their lives intertwined. This could be complicated for readers. There are some definite recurring characters, and clearly there is supposed to be a storyline of some sort, but the poems are disjointed. The identifiable characters are Mama, Nona, Sister, the garbage man, Father, the narrator's grandma, and the narrator herself. The poems seem to be just snippets of the narrator's life. Much of the life described in the poems is not pleasant. This is where Johnson utilizes the symbolism of kinesthesia. The inclusion of such symbolism brings a darker, almost twisted tone to the poems. For example, in "How Hard is It?": Mama taught me how to open my ribcage, so today in the bathroom I practiced taking out my heart. She said you have to slice your ribs open with a pizza cutter, one with a sturdy handle. The heart taken out of the chest is solid in its sack. I thought blood would come gushing out. But the heart is pretty hard, a lot like an unripe cantaloupe but not as stiff as a watermelon. It seems that, at least in some cases, Johnson is using the image of physical pain to symbolize emotional pain. "How Hard is It?" is a more evident case of this circumstance. While it doesn't blatantly spell out what the narrator is trying to say, the symbolism is used in a manner that will most likely be accessible to the majority of readers. However, some of the poems are incredibly vague, to the point where the symbolism and style would be too confusing for many readers. For example, in "Three Bins": .Mama says if I want a different set of hips that I better go with titanium, but a titanium hip and thigh bin is an expensive purchase these days. In "Kinesthesia", Johnson seems to straddle a fine line between what readers will interesting and insightful, and what they simply won't understand. However, although her poems may be inaccessible in some parts, Johnson overall is able to successfully capture an eerie feeling of hurt in "Kinesthesia" that any reader should be able to relate to.