Sunday, March 26, 2017


Since first meeting him around 1970, my encounters with Iowa poet John Sjoberg—whether in person or through correspondence, always infused with his kind and gentle spirit—left me feeling filled with a kind of childlike sense of love.

There was an innocence and artlessness to his presence that translated to his poetry. His work wasn't what is sometimes called "faux naif"—because there was never anything "faux" about it, in my experience—but genuinely and uniquely a product of who John was, in the way that Satie's music or Henri Rousseau's paintings, are the results of who they were.

John's published output is minimal, compared to most poets (let alone a graphomaniac like me), but choice, as they used to say. Because no individual poem of his is duplicated, either in its approach or its outcome, and thus can't be compared to any other.

I'll leave you with three examples from his first collection (I believe), HAZEL, that he inscribed and sent to me when it came out in 1976 (a lovingly produced work of art itself and example of independent fine book printing and design, by Cinda and Allam Kornblum and their Toothpaste Press out of which later came Coffee House Press):

3's INTO 4'S

rattling leaves
wind blowing
music from a cello.

thin sensitive features
music from a cello
a lamp burning oil.

a slow drop of water
a second drop of water
a second drop of water
music from a cello.

a second drop of water
a slow piece of music
a raft, floating
a ball of string.

a lamp burning oil
music from a cello
the end of a long shaft
a slow piece of music.


Penguin Bread.
Penguin Bread.


my head is green
the songs here, the bird songs
here & here & here
are my heart.

the tractor engine beats,
drives fall corn up into the granary.
my whole body can feel it. i wonder
if they'll take me into town
in a  wagon.

i'll stop at your house
in a bushelbasket,
grinning from ear to ear.

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