Devin Johnston

We gathered in a field southwest of town,several hundred hauling coolersand folding chairs along a gravel roaddry in August, two ruts of soft dustthat soaked into our clothesand rose in plumes behind us.By noon we could discern their massive coilsemerging from a bale of cloud,scales scattering crescent dapplesthrough walnut fronds,the light polarized, each leaf tip in focus.As their bodies blotted out the sun,the forest faded to silverpoint.A current of cool airextended from the bottomlandsan intimation of October,and the bowl of sky deepenedits celestial archaeology.Their tails, like banners of a vast army,swept past Orion and his retinueto sighs and scattered applause,the faint wail of a child crying.In half an hour they had passed onin search of deep waters.Before our company dispersed,dust whirling in the wind,we planned to meet again in seven yearsfor the next known migration.Sunlight flashed on windshieldsand caught along the riverbanka cloudy, keeled scaleabout the size of a dinner plate,cool as blanc de Chinein the heat of the afternoon.

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Born in 1970, Devin Johnston spent his childhood in North Carolina. He is the author of seven books of poetry including Dragons, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2023. He has also published Creaturely and Other Essays, meditations on the natural world. He works as an editor of Flood Editions, a nonprofit publishing house, and he teaches at Saint Louis University in Missouri.

Dragons is a collection of sonorous, sensual poems from Devin Johnston, “one of the finest craftsmen of verse we have” (Michael Autrey, Booklist). Attentive to both the physical world and our place in it, his arresting images of nature and human life ring with quiet power. An elegy for a ten-year-old hen; a fourth grader seeing a fox, his “fur waistcoat immaculate”; the sound of neighbors arguing set against the “pallid flames” of the setting sun: together, such scenes form a resonant, restrained meditation on life’s journey and “the feeling of time.”

"[Dragons] moves with quiet elegance. His contemplative tone plumbs the depth of the natural world—and its humor, too."
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post

"[Dragons] explores the present and past with effortless rhyme and gentle music . . . These poems are well wrought and moving, each filled with a 'mild expectancy' that connects the mundane with the awe that gives life meaning."
Publishers Weekly

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