In Full Velvet, Jenny Johnson
In Full Velvet, Jenny Johnson
Autostraddle, “45 Queer and Feminist Books You Need to Read in Early 2017"
Academy of American Poets, “Most Anticipated Collections”
Signature Reads, “28 Breathtaking Poetry Books to Read Now”
Sinuous and sensual, the poems of In Full Velvet interrogate the nuances of desire, love, gender, ecology, LGBTQ lineage and community, and the tension between a body’s material limits and the forms made possible by the imagination. Characterized by formal poise, vulnerability, and compassion, Johnson's debut collection is one of resounding generosity and grace.
Jenny Johnson is a recipient of the 2015 Whiting Writers' Award, and the 2016 Hodder Fellowship at Princeton. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Praise for In Full Velvet:
"In this stunningly lyrical debut, Johnson probes issues of queer culture and love from an array of existential perspectives, creating a melodic and thought-provoking symphony on queer identity…. [A] miniature opus, alternately joyful and heartrending, achingly bittersweet.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The queer and blazing ecosystem Johnson establishes situates dyke bars in forests and forests in dyke bars, under swells of gym-class parachutes, all rendered in the jazz of Johnson’s lyricism. Vociferous, deciduous, fresh, and knowing, Johnson’s poems create a space in which readers can reveal themselves and dig deep.”
“Radical…. If In Full Velvet is a map of Johnson’s mind and memory, it is one worth saving. Johnson is precise with herself, patient with others. These poems celebrate the feeling of spinning in tight circles until all that is left the spiral, rushing from the inside out.”
“The queer valentine of the century…. A valentine-as-testament to the mysteries and mandates of human love….to queer human love...to perfect unrequited love, trenchant in memory...to imperfect requited love, more trenchant in memory still…. Perhaps most necessary and astonishing of all, this is a valentine to self-love and the elusive search for it…. Because of these poems, I see and more than see—they cause a wild trilling in my veins—the many quiet wonders of the world.”
"Reading the right poem can pull you into yourself and gives you the magnifying glass you need to understand your own guts. It’s cheaper than therapy and calmer than journaling. Reading Jenny Johnson’s debut poetry collection, In Full Velvet, is more like a wielding a telescope. From the barber shop, the bedroom, the dyke bar, the street and the quiet corners of the heart, Johnson’s poetry speaks into the story of queerness…. The poems in this work contain so much at once and transition fluidly between themes, scenes and stories. These marks of authenticity create intimacy with the author and blur the line between her story and our collective truth.”
"Is there a better gift than brand new poetry?"
“Johnson’s first book of poems takes on subject matter such as growing up queer in America and how politicized the queer female body is. Her imagery is sharp, and she consistently brings us into liminal and charged spaces...reminding us that states of transition and what is considered in between have always been a part of human experience that is in constant relationship to change and flux, as gender is.”
—Academy of American Poets
“Jenny Johnson is a poet of deep compassion and mesmerizing range. Her work probes the complexities of queer identity and the body, weaving in the unexpected reaches of intimacy and communion found in nature, dreams and lost family histories. The transformative power of community in the face of discrimination and intolerance is also felt throughout much of her work.”
“Jenny Johnson’s lyrical collection is a gorgeous, saturated distillation of desire. Weaving into these poems the language of botany and zoology, Johnson explores queer identity and politics.”
“The rigor and formal poise of Jenny Johnson’s work creates an astounding emotional tension. There’s a sinuous, shape-shifting quality to this work that makes her poetic explorations of sex and selfhood all the more resonant. That subtle mastery of line and rhyme is a powerful complement to the poems’ organic commemorating, interrogating, searching. The judges were reminded of the virtuosity that characterizes a master like Elizabeth Bishop; of the profound and active depths, and how her poems ripple with need, and the desire for unity, communion, transformation.”
—Whiting Awards Committee
“Maybe a voice from the ancients whispers to Jenny Johnson—Sappho or the Muse Euterpe—how to sing of love and death and joy and reality in as many registers as they come in life. Or maybe Johnson is just a genius. In either scenario (though the latter seems the obvious one) the pen of this poet flows with hard-won Old Soul ink—blood and tears and juice and kisses. This breathtaking debut is erotic, sublime, dappled and riven with ripe fruit, wild body, and full-on fauna. Lesbian literary history (and the many queer-hearted literatures that keep us alive) has a new chapter here, inscribed In Full Velvet by this magnificently gifted poet.”