Thursday, June 1, 2017




JUNE 2017

OPA How long have you been writing Poetry? We would like to know the early stories about your growing up as a poet or writer in general. Who are your favorite Poets? What are some of your favorite genres to read and to write? Had they inspired you a lot, do you believe in inspiration as a guiding force behind writings at all?

MICHAEL LEE JOHNSON I started writing when I was 17 years of age off and on.  My life was heavily influenced by the Vietnam War and the stress related around it.  I started to write simple poems about a cabin in the wilderness, etc.  Ultimately I did end up in Canada for 10 years.  Carl Sandburg was my first love and I still love his work today.  I would listen to his voice I had on tape recorder and grew to sound like him.  I have created a YouTube video as a tribute to Carl Sandburg and you can tell my voice is very similar.  Others that have influenced me no exact order Irving Layton (Canadian poet), Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Leonard Cohen, and Charles Bukowski.  On the female side, Sylvia Plath, Ann Sexton, Margaret Atwood (Canadian poet), Attwood, Mary Oliver, Sara Teasdale, and lately Maya Angelou.  I am a lover of history, philosophy, religions.  I always liked Hermann Hesse, and Jiddu Krishnamurti.  I believe in a poetic mind which is the source of inspiration.

OPA What has been the toughest criticism given to you as a writer? What was the biggest compliment? Did those change how or what you write?  What has been the strangest thing that a reader has asked you?

MICHAEL LEE JOHNSON I don’t deal with criticisms.  This was the most honest comment I ever received from a fellow editor. 
“You're a rebel, a trouble maker, would be my best guess.  A creative writing teacher's worst nightmare.   Ah well.  Most true artists go their own way against the tide.  Actually, that's what I LIKE about your work.  It makes its own way, its brusque (abrupt or offhand in speech or manner) and weepy (but unsentimental) all at once.  It shoulders in like a motorcycle guy who looks tough, and IS tough, but who is also a peach of a guy.  I see that you are enjoying much success during the past year or so, and I'm so glad we saw your genius and grabbed you up for Artistry and now for Magnolia Magazine.  It's a pleasure.  Thanks, Magnolia Magazine.  Here is the way I feel about you:”

OPA What is your favorite poem you have ever written? Compared to when you first started writing, have you notice any big changes in your writing style or how you write compared from then to now?

MICHAEL LEE JOHNSON I don’t have a favorite poem of my own, they are all set in stage at different points and times in my life.  It has been a strange journey.  Some of the first poems ever written by me are still as they were then, unchanged and getting published.  Conversely, I have many, many poems with revisions that drive me nuts.  One poem “Harvest Time” is up to 8 revisions.  I can’t say if I am better now than I was then.  I have moved away from simple poems of love and romance to more complex poems and images.  I have played with a few poetry forms but and basically free verse.  I do write some cinquain poems and quite a few ekphrastic poems, many of my poems come from history.

OPA   What has been your favorite part of being a poet or and author? What has been your least favorite?

MICHAEL LEE JOHNSON The most pleasing times have been recently on Facebook Groups as administrator, where I have focused on developing other individual novice poets who lack confidence and direction.  Many of these “novices” are now established poets on their own right.  The least favorite are the “emotional wars” many poets go through in their lives that turn into poetry.  At the same time I feel those experiences in exile during the Vietnam War, the lonely feeling, isolation, and failed marriages, sleeping in my Volkswagen Beetle for six months all made the poet I am today.  To be a poet you must see life and experience life slightly than most people.

OPA  Did you get to quit your day job and become a writer and or author or do you still have a day job and writing is something you do for fun? If you still have a day job, what is it?

MICHAEL LEE JOHNSON I worked for other for many years and sort of regret it but for the last 19 years I have been self-employed doing custom imprinted promotional products for income.  I was a late start on financial security but lucked out when Clinton became President and invested in mutual funds with all the up and downs and simply hanged in there.  Even at 69 years of age I still need to make about $600-800 dollars a month plus a small social security check to make ends meet.  Fortunately at this time in my life 85% of my business and poetry and poetry groups are ran out of my condo.  I have very little debt and things are paid off which allows time for my activities.

OPA  Besides writing and reading, what is your most favorite thing to do? What genre are you most looking forward to explore during your writing career? Why?

MICHAEL LEE JOHNSON  I’m a simple person, not simple minded, but like the basics of nature, the birds for 19 years on my balcony eating out of the birdfeeder every day, photography as an amateur, prayers to Jesus, doing poetry videos on YouTube.  At this time I have over 133 poems on YouTube and have written over 450 published poems in 33 different countries, translated into 4 different languages.  I have hundreds of old poems and new starter poems to keep me going.

OPA: Do you think literature or poetry is really essential in our life? If so why? How does it relate to the general history of mankind?

MICHAEL LEE JOHNSON I have no total idea how poetry relates to the history of mankind, I do know poetry has been in the history of mankind.  Poetry is believed to have been recited or sung, employed as a way of remembering oral history, genealogy, and law as far back as recorded history say 2,500 B.C.E.  I think that makes it essential to mankind.

OPA Our readers would like to know your own personal experience regarding the importance of literature and poetry in your life.

MICHAEL LEE JOHNSON When I was young, 17-30 or so poetry at times depressed me made me ruminate.  Often came out of difficult times.  As I have aged poetry has become a healer for me.  With my success as a poet, relatively speaking, with several chapbooks, books, and Editor-in-chief of two recently large poetry anthologies it has been nerve trying but a job.  When I was young, I suffered bouts of depression, even as a social worker/counsellor at the time not recognizing it within myself.  Now focused on others trying to make them successful poets, my own poetry being published, and thanking God each day for what I have not dwelling on what I do not have, the cyclical depression has gone away for now…fingers crossed.

OPA Do you think people in general actually bother about literature in general?  Do you think this consumerist world is turning the average man away from serious literature?

MICHAEL LEE JOHNSON This is a hard question, the need to see seemingly small events and creating emotional evocative poetry is built in to us right brain types.  The creative zone is a magical place, left side of brain: analytical and logical, right side of brain: artistic and creative.  Most of us have a mix, I’m very analytical yet my creative side is stronger.  I think our gadget world of hand held devises is a nightmare of distraction with tons of worthless apps, at the same time it allow access to online writing sites never available years ago, makes getting published easier and less expensive than typewriter days, international coupons, ripping endless sheets out of the typewriter with just one error, fewer stamps, no enclosed return envelopes, etc.

OPA Do you think society, as a whole, has a factor in shaping you as a poet, or your poetry altogether?

MICHAEL LEE JOHNSON Beyond doubt societal changes, political movements, polices, wars, turmoil, shape me as a poet.  Without Vietnam War I would not have about 30 poems of my experiences within that time period.  Without romance good and bad what would happen or never happened to love poems?  You cannot live in this world and not be affected by it.  Then again there was Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau attempting to live in isolation but he was not totally isolated after all he had a brilliant friend in Ralph Waldo Emerson.  I forgot to mention in my early days I read my share of both Thoreau and Emerson.

OPA We would also like to know; how do you relate the present literary trends with the literary heritage of your own country?  (This question is more or less the same so I’m incorporating here as one)  Do you believe that all writers are by and large the product of their nationality? Is it an incentive or an obstacle in becoming an international writer?

MICHAEL LEE JOHNSON I’m not sure I understand this question.  I’m not sure I know what those trends you are referring to are?  I would have to know what you consider “present literary trends” to respond to this.  We are all influenced by our heritage, where we came from to where we may go but without your definition of trends I find it hard to respond to this.  I do know exposure to other heritages and their histories influence writing style of mine.  Living in both Canada and the United States integrated, expanded and also divided my life.  My first book of poetry was initially going to be non-fiction account and turned into a poetry book with the title:  The Lost American:  From Exile to Freedom.

OPA Do you support feminisms? Can literature play any decisive role in feminism at all?

MICHAEL LEE JOHNSON This is a topic of no real interest to me.  If you are defining feminism as the advocacy of women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes in my world of poetry it simply is not my experience.  I make no separation between the sexes when it comes to creativity, I have always seen them as equals in creativity.  I know the “heritage” was not always that way.  In my poetry world today it is basically all equal and respected.  From a pure talent perspective I might be inclined to favor many female poets over male poets.  Now that is crazy right?  How women were viewed and how viewed today does not influence my selections of favorite poets or poems.

OPA What 7 words would you use to describe yourself?


OPA   Is there anything else that you would like to share or say to those who will read this interview?

Never let anyone steal your joy.

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. He is a Canadian and USA citizen. Today he is a poet, editor, publisher, freelance writer, amateur photographer, small business owner in Itasca, Illinois.  He has been nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards for poetry 2015, nominated Best of the Net 2016.  Poetry published in 33 countries, 133 YouTube poetry videos:  Michael Lee Johnson has several books, and chapbooks published and is Editor-in-chief of 2 poetry anthologies, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze, and Dandelion in a Vase of Roses.  He is administrator of a Facebook poetry group over 12,970 members:  He is editor of 10 poetry sites.
The editorial staff of this project: Deborah Brooks Langford, Stacia Lynn Reynolds; sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.


  1. I am honored to be in your publication.

  2. Congratulations Michael Lee Johnson on your interview and securing Poet of the month in Our Poetry Archives, 2017!!!Pittsburgh Author Renee' Drummond-Brown (Renee's Poems with Wings are Words in Flight).

  3. Very interesting interview with Mr. Michael Lee Johnson to read! Indeed his vast experience in writing field is amazing to make note!

  4. Great interview. It's nice to know more about Michael Lee Johnson. Thank you.

  5. Congratulations Michael for a very in depth interview. Very enjoyable. Judy Moskowitz

  6. So kind of you to leave such encourage comments.

  7. It is a very enlightening, encouraging and convincing interview. Michael Lee Johnson is one of my most favourite poets in the world contemporary English literature. I would like to express him my heartiest congratulations on being featured as the Poet of the Month which he richly deserves. Well done, sir!

  8. What a wonderful comment I'm humbled Indunil Madhasankha, you are quite the warrior poet yourself. Thank U so much.

  9. What can I cay ? I'm speechless let me gather my senses for a moment friends..My good friend Michael Lee Johnson, The man, the myth & the legend. A poet of all poets. He shines as a beacon of light to a hurting world in need of love. A brave soul that takes risks in life. His name will forever shine as an honorable humanitarian in all its sincerity. In much respects, Poet Mario William Vitale.