By Kathleen Johnson
Reviewed by Barbara Stransky, Kansas City Kansas Community College Library, Kansas Notable Books Committee
Images of fire smolder throughout this slim volume of heartfelt poetry by Kathleen Johnson. Burn is divided into three sections, the verses of each relating to a different thematic interpretation of the glow of embers.
The first brief section describes the passion of relationships that end in ashes, and utilizes various descriptions of illumination and color to portray metaphors of fire. Johnson’s words bring the reader so close to the flames that the “shimmering” and “flickering” of the blaze can be felt through the poetic expression.
The second segment concentrates on the “glow” of family relationships as evidence of the warmth of fire. At times this is a description of satisfying radiance and intimacy, but Johnson also expresses that this inferno may be painful as it reaches the scorching point. Her words imply that at times it is difficult to remain too close to these searing cinders, yet the fire cannot be totally extinguished within the hearts of those who have felt its heat.
The final portion focuses on the incandescence of familiar artists whose works burst into flames in the background of our lives, igniting imagination. Johnson alludes to the influences of a cast of artists from musicians like Santana to painters like Georgia O’Keefe. As Johnson expresses the metaphor of this descriptive inferno: “That spark, that fire, makes life worthwhile….”