by Robert "Bob" Bussey
This is the first of many articles on Poets and Poetry in Central Louisiana. Poetry is one of those “lost arts” that is being found again. Today’s poems are not like the ones that bored you “in days of old.” It is, therefore, appropriate to start with and highlight one of CENLA’s newest, most dynamic poets: Shelley Jinks Johnson.
Shelley has published her first book entitled PRETTY LITTLE WIDOW. Shelley started crafting her work four years ago, but really came into her own after attending the “Bread Loaf” writer’s training conference in Vermont. That training helped her mold her ideas into workable, readable forms. Bread Loaf is one of the oldest, most respected, writer’s conferences in the USA.
When she began to view her writing as something more than simply emoting on paper, or journal-keeping, she realized she needed to develop a discipline. Creating a writing craft has involved setting aside time to write consistently, seeking critical feedback from peer writers, attending workshops, voraciously reading other writers (poets, especially), and learning to ruthlessly edit what she writes.
Interestingly, Shelley says most of her initial writing takes place on her phone while she’s out walking.
“Physically moving and doing something that doesn’t require my full attention allows my mind the freedom to drift and explore ideas,” she says. “Allowing my mind, the space to wander, away from the busyness of everyday life, almost always leads to capturing ideas that are then developed and edited later.”
Shelley wasn’t always a writer/poet. In her early adult years, she attended Maastricht University in the Netherlands. While in Europe, she backpacked across the continent for 3 months, living a poet’s life without even knowing it. Then she returned to the States to pursue her dreams. You might have seen her at Southern Chic since she co-founded it with Lizette Smith. Over time, her interests have been aimed more at writing/poetry, becoming a member of the Bad Gnus Poets, and organizing poetry and musical events at Tamp & Grind or at Ignite the Mic.
Shelley is working on additional poetry books and on a nonfiction book. Stay tuned for those.
You can also find out more about Shelley and her work at www.facebook.com/prettylittlewidow