Ronald Johnson Memorial, dedicated May 25, 2005
Thomas Fox Averill, ModeratorPeter O'Leary, Johnson's literary executorDevin Johnston, publisher of Flood EditionsNorman Finkelstein, Flood Editions
Jodi Panula, Ronald's sister, visits from Missouri
Susan Marchant, Kansas Center for the Book
Bill Riphahn, Director of Planning & Development, Parks and Recreation of Topeka
Mama Mallard watches her nest and eggs near speaker podium, Ward-Meade Park, Topeka
Bill Riphahn, Jodi Panula and Susan Marchant prepare to unveil memorial plaqueUnveiling Ronald Johnson Memorial PlaqueBill Riphahn, Jodi Panuala and Susan Marchant have unveiled the Ronald Johnson memorial plaque
Select a photo to see the larger version   
Ronald Johnson Park, Topeka, KSTom Averill recites Johnson poem which appears on memorials plaqueHonored guest read plaquePark bench and Ronald Johnson memorial plaque, Ward-Meade Park, Topeka

A plaque honoring Topeka native poet Ronald Johnson was dedicated at the Ward-Meade Park,
Topeka, KS, on May 25, 2005. Mr. Johnson   
was nationally known for his poetry. His final    
poems were composed while he worked      
at the Ward-Meade site.      
Attending the ceremony were friends, fans, co-       
workers, and Johnson's sister Jodi Panula.         
A reception included food prepared from a           
cookbook published by Mr. Johnson.            

Guests had food from the reception line
       This dedication was
      supported by Topeka
     Parks & Recreation,
    Ward-Meade Park and
   Kansas Center for the

Guest speakers Peter O'Leary, Devin Johnston, and Norman Finkelstein (experts on Ronald Johnson's verse) participated in a mini-symposium on The Shrubberies on the evening of May 25th at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. The panel discussion was moderated by Washburn Author in Residence Tom Averill.

Two Seasons

cardinal and bluejay
interloping same bush
shaking forsythia
in goldened shower

eternal summers
wren wrench song
on risen bough
after recent rain

from Ronald Johnson's
The Shrubberies

edited by Peter O'Leary, Flood Editions 2001

“The Book of the Green Man” by Ronald Johnson
Review of The Shrubberies by Brad Haas
from The Shrubberies by Ronald Johnson
The Beats in Kansas: Beat Generation in the Heartland
—Thanks to George Laughead Jr. for these links

About Ronald Johnson:
Born in Ashland, Kansas in 1935, Johnson moved with his family to Topeka in the mid 1950s. He graduated from Columbia University in 1960 and traveled extensively. His first book of poetry, A Line Of Poetry , A Row Of Trees, 1964, contained many  specifically "Kansas poems." Over the next 32 years, he published seven other major books of poetry as well as a long metaphysical poem titled ARK, created over a 20-year period.  He also had a parallel career as a chef and caterer and produced five cookbooks on American regional cooking.

In 1993, Johnson returned to Topeka and is remembered by many here for his part-time work as a cookie baker at Ward-Meade Park. The gardens there inspired him to write the sequence of highly
condensed poems which bridge common experience to the universal in a way that is both precise and ecstatic.

As a "poet's poet", Ronald Johnson is admired by many of the new generation of American poets. Extensive discussions of his work have appeared on Internet magazines, such as Octopus and LVNG, as well as in several recent books of poetry criticism. To Do As Adam Did, Selected Poems of Ronald Johnson, edited by Peter O'Leary, was published in 2000 by Talisman House.  Flood Editions republication of RADI OS, one of Johnson's books which has long
been out of print, is available this month and is one of several ongoing publishing projects of the poet's work.

About Thomas Fox Averill:
Professor of English at Washburn University, Tom Averill teaches courses in Creative Writing and in Kansas Literature, Folkloreand Film.  Averill's most recent book is a collection of stories,
Ordinary Genius, published this April by the University of Nebraska Press. He is an O. Henry Award winner and has published two novels.

About the Symposium Panelists:

Peter O'Leary is a poet, teacher and a longtime editor of the literary journal LVNG. Ronald Johnson acted as a mentor for Peter's poetry and asked him to serve as his literary executor.
Beside the Johnson books he has edited, a book of poems, Watchfulness, (Spuyten Duyvil, 2001) and a book of criticism, Gnostic Contagion: Robert Duncan & the Poetry of Illness, (Wesleyan University Press, 2002) are currently available. Peter O'Leary teaches in Chicago and has recently lived in Vienna and Budapest for extended periods.

Devin Johnston is the author of two books of poetry, Aversions (Omnidawn, 2004) and Telepathy (Paper Bark, 2001) as well as a volume of criticism entitled Precipitations (Wesleyan University Press, 2002).  He lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where he teaches and works for Flood Editions, an independent press.

Norman Finkelstein
is a poet and literary critic. His books of poetry include Restless Messengers (Georgia, 1992) and a three-volume serial poem Track:  Track (1999), Columns (2002), and Powers, (2005 - all Spuyten Duyvil).  As a critic, he has written extensively about modern and postmodern poetry, and about Jewish American literature. His most recent books of criticism are Not One of Them In Place: Modern Poetry and Jewish American Identity (SUNY, 2002) and Lyrical Interference: Essays on Poetics (Spuyten Duyvil, 2004).  He is currently writing a book on religious revisionism in contemporary long poems, including Ronald
Johnson's ARK. Dr. Finkelstein is a Professor of English at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

Bob Webb, active supporter of the work of Ronald Johnson

A special thank you to
Bob Webb
without whose enthusiasm
for the work of
Ronald Johnson,
these events would not have
taken place.

See also Topeka Capital-Journal article.
All photos © 2005 by Carol Yoho
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