Place Studies: Jill Johnson

Photo of Jill Johnson

Jill McCabe Johnson's interests in ecopoetics spans from the nineteenth century to present, and encompasses ecocriticism as well as her own creative work in both poetry and prose. Her critical work analyzes representations of walking and creating a sense of topophilia to advocate on behalf of underrepresented populations such as in the works of William Wordsworth, Gustave Flaubert, Walt Whitman, Frank O'Hara, and Allen Ginsberg. Jill is also interested in the role of place in narrative, particularly the ways in which place influences, and sometimes functions as tone, voice, character, or plot. For her creative work, with the help of a grant from the Center for Great Plains Studies, Jill has researched and published poems set in the southern Plains in the period following the Homestead Act of 1862. She also published poems about the Pacific Northwest and the sea.


Pushcart Nomination: "Horseshoe Highway" Barely South Review, Winter 2010
Pushcart Nomination: "Heck Defends the Girl" ScissorTale Review, Summer 2010
Pushcart Nomination: "A La Tavola"—2011
ScissorTale Review Editor's Choice Poetry Award– 2010
First place, Written Word Literary Contest – 2010
Second place, Written Word Literary Contest – 2010
Pushcart Nomination: "The Abscess Absence of Paranoia"—2010
Research Grant-in-Aid, University of Nebraska Center for Great Plains Studies—2009
Paula Jones Gardiner Poetry Award, Floating Bridge Press—2009
Deborah Tall Memorial Fellowship, Pacific Lutheran University—2007
A. P. Anderson Center Artist Residency—2007
First Place Whidbey Writers Workshop Literary Contest—August 2007

Recent Publications

Jill has published poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in numerous journals, including Poetry Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review, and Harpur Palate.

Sea Song

If whales can find themselves in the wrong passage,
directionless, swimming in their sleep, then who is to say
we are not floating in our own slumber, years into emptiness
with nothing but the day-in, day-out, sway.

Combing through tide-swept marriages, we pluck remnants.
The strewn toys, refrigerator schedules, plans to go camping,
and the promise of a second honeymoon ebbed.
Whales do travel in their sleep. Passive echolocation

alerts them to rocks, ships, lost jobs, and the rank wounds
of the disgruntled dear. We sleep in front of the television.
We disregard tsunami tremors, and the salt-stained traces
of desolation. No wonder whales beach themselves.

No wonder they linger in the receding tide of whatever
luck that has carried them this far will now leave
them languishing among driftwood and broken shells.
Beautiful whales. Please, please, wake up.

Published in Sea Stories, Winter 2009