Contributor Spotlight: Sonja Johanson

The erasures “Crispin,” “Home,” “Trackers,” and “Gabardine” by Sonja Johanson appeared in Issue 17 and can be found here.

We’d love to hear more about these erasures.

“Gabardine” – For me, plants just glow in the landscape in the same way words glow on the page, and I wanted to pull these together using found poetry as a vehicle. I feel like “Gabardine” was particularly successful in this; beautyberry is a knockout native plant if you know to look for it, and paired well with text alluding to the cold and streetlights.

What was the most difficult part of creating these pieces?

The most difficult part of all these erasures is the ephemeral nature of the materials – many of the plant parts begin to decompose even as I am working with them, and are fleeting with regard to season. Because these plant structures that occur in a particular time, it’s not possible to recreate these pieces for an entire year. Also, with some materials, the shadows changed as I stood over the piece, and would obscure the text. Because of this, sometimes I would not secure the materials, so that I could move them a bit. “Gabardine” was one of these –  the berries were constantly rolling all over the place!

Recommend a book for us which was published within the last decade.

For poetry, I am just in love with Dana Levin’s “Banana Palace”. Prose, Nicola Griffith’s “Hild’ is a masterpiece in historical fiction.

If you could have a drink with any living author, who would it be? Why?

Hmmmm…. Ross Gay!!! We could talk plants AND poetry! How much fun would that be?

What are you working on now? What’s next?

I’m working on a collaborative chap of toxic plant poems. Lots of poison!

Our thanks to Sonja for taking the time to answer a few questions and share her work. Find Sonja’s erasures “Crispin,” “Home,” “Trackers,” and “Gabardine” here:

Sonja Johanson has recent work appearing in BOAAT, Ninth Letter, Poet Lore, and The Writer’s Almanac. She is a contributing editor at the Eastern Iowa Review, and the author of Impossible Dovetail (IDES, Silver Birch Press), all those ragged scars(Choose the Sword Press), and Trees in Our Dooryards (Redbird Chapbooks). Sonja divides her time between work in Massachusetts and her home in the mountains of western Maine. You can follow her at