Each of the black boxes contains white pages, typed, one or two pages each, stapled at the top left corner. 300-500 word stories; all quite true, unfortunately. These are poetics of chaos.
These are the stories I said I’d never write. The kind of stories, once heard, you can’t erase from your mind. Scenes you wish you’d never seen. Sensations you wish never to feel again. When I began writing, photography, and painting, I adopted what is rightly or wrongly termed the Hippocratic Oath that medical people are bound by: simply, do no harm. I’ve held these stories back.
Cannibalism flirts with wildfires, bungled suicides and cross-dressing rescue workers. Trauma-filled flashbacks from Viet Nam to 911 devastate the landscape. Aptly subtitled “Short Memoirs of Chaos,” Kendall Johnson’s Black Box Poetics takes the reader on a wild, unpredictable ride through his fascinating life. Nothing escapes Johnson’s sharp eye and dark wit, including the shimmering prospect of redemption.
—Alexis Rhone Fancher, author of EROTIC: New & Selected, poetry editor, Cultural Weekly.
Kendall Johnson has been a firefighter, trauma psychotherapist, Vietnam War veteran, and mountain climber. He is also a writer, painter, and deep thinker. He is someone who has been drawn to painful places and many moments of the worst kind of violent rage and hatred. Black Box Poetics explores the worst moments of a life and draws us forward into a world where even after one has been shown darkness, light is possible.
—John Brantingham, author of Life, Orange to Pear
By turns haunting, inspiring, tragic, insightful, harrowing, and empathetic, Kendall Johnson’s Black Box Poetics is a work of complexity and brilliance. Like the war correspondence of Ernest Hemingway, Michael Herr, and Dexter Filkins, Johnson writes about trauma—both immediate and enduring—with a nuance, an honesty, and a grace that enables the reader to find in these narratives lessons of universal humanistic and spiritual importance.
—Kareem Tayyar, author of The Prince of Orange County