Jenny Johnson

Writing for me is an ongoing practice of facing and countering fears...I am often most surprised by the writing that comes from facing fears that strike closest to home, poems that explore internalized phobias about gender identity, sexuality, and the body, poems that struggle with a question like do I deserve love? I’m thinking of a line in an older poem of mine called ‘Mirror Box Visions’ that instructs, ‘Come because her mother says you’re no good.’ That line took courage to write.

Whiting Award-winning poet

2016-17 Hodder Fellow

Author of In Full Velvet




The sheer joy of Jenny Johnson’s poems finds fuel in the work of poets she loves (Hopkins, William Carlos Williams, Larry Levis), in the wild variety revealed by botany and zoology, in the insights of queer and gender theory, in dyke bars and dancing, and most of all in love and desire — that imperative to which, directly or less so, every other element in this list is in service. When someone writes the history of American poetry in our time, the new energies released among the generation now publishing first books will be unmistakable; Johnson strides into a public space secured for her by Rich and Lorde and a host of others, and makes it brilliantly her own.
— Mark Doty
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.
Publisher's Weekly

Jenny Johnson is the author of In Full Velvet, published by Sarabande Books in 2017.

In both their lyrical force and breathtaking formal sophistication, her poems are powerful meditations on love, the body, queer culture and identity, vulnerability and community. Featured in both the New York Times and by the Academy of American Poets  In Full Velvet was one of the most highly praised collections of 2017.

Johnson’s honors include a 2015 Whiting Award and a 2016-17 Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University. She has also received awards and scholarships from the Blue Mountain Center, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Yaddo. Her poems have appeared in Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly, New England Review, Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics, and elsewhere.

After earning a BA/MT in English Education from the University of Virginia, she taught public school for several years in San Francisco, and spent ten summers on the staff of the UVA Young Writer’s Workshop. She earned her MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College. A contributing editor at Waxwing Literary Journal, she teaches at the University of Pittsburgh and at the Rainier Writing Workshop, Pacific Lutheran University’s low-residency MFA program.



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