Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Michael Lee Johnson

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.


Michael Lee-Johnson

lived 10 years in Canada during the Vietnam era and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada.  Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, Illinois.  Mr. Johnson published in more than 1042 new publications, his poems have appeared in 38 countries, he edits, publishes 10 poetry sites.  Michael Lee Johnson, has been nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards poetry 2015/1 Best of the Net 2016/2 Best of the Net 2017, 1 Best of the Net 2018.  170 poetry videos are now on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/poetrymanusa/videos.  Editor-in-chief poetry anthology, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1530456762; editor-in-chief poetry anthology, Dandelion in a Vase of Roses available here   https://www.amazon.com/dp/1545352089.  Editor-in-chief Warriors with Wings:  the Best in Contemporary Poetry, http://www.amazon.com/dp/1722130717.

The Interview

1.  What inspired you to write poetry?

A better question would be to ask me why I was born or choice to live or die.  I don’t know if anyone really knows why or what inspires them to write poetry.  Do you?  I’m not sure if it is gift or a cure.  When younger and emotional unstable, dipping into crime, exile to Canada Vietnam War, it was a curse and a release to stay alive; now more mature, stable it’s a blessing, a legacy, something to share.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My emotions introduced me to poetry in 1968.  The oppressive feeling of being drafted on my back into the Vietnam worthless war, leaving a first wife and child, losing a student deferment also created an introduction to poetry.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

My introduction to older poets (now that I’m old 71 years’ days passing) wasn’t thinking about their age or past but what I was reading at the time over coffee, laid back, I was more engulfed in the words I saw in print the present living picture of their lives, the emotional imagery they left behind.  If you are referring to who my older poets I admired and took on unknowingly me as their mentors, Carl Sandburg, Leonard Cohen, and Margret Atwood, Canada, in her early days, Sylvia Plath, and Sara Teasdale.  I will hide in the corner but yes, even Rod McKuen.  As of the last 5 years I would add, Charles Bukowski whom I have been compared with though street oriented I think I’m milder than the rough beard of Bukowski.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a daily writing routine, if I did I couldn’t continue to be a rebel, and trust me, in the beginning I was, and now with and elderly approach, a touch of conservatism have drawn back slightly.  Routines, I don’t do that; routines are for people who work 9 to-5 as Dolly Parton reminds us of.  9 to 5 I don’t do that anymore, I’m self-employed follow my own script within these chains of freedom.  My life isn’t on a fixed schedule, I write many beginner poems and save them but they’re not on a schedule-they pop up when they feel like it though I try to monitor them.

5. What motivates you to write?

This is simple answer for me, I want to leave a legacy behind my backdoor beyond my cremated bones in an urn.  With age I have learned “whatever success is”, it’s helped along with helping others.  Besides, I prefer to be buried with some of my poems in the hope of rising with Christ, if eaten by worms while I wait is my destiny ‘worm’ on.

6. What is your work ethic?

Traditionally speaking, I don’t have a work ethic as most refer to it.  My personal work ethic, though it may layer over others, my work ethic if I have one it to help others since I know it helps me, to be as honest as possible without inflicting undue hurt or brutal honest.  To hope many of my present and left poems have an impact, hit a sensitive spot in the heart of my readers and listening audience-since I do many audio poems.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

Simple, the same way they did then only I have their pictures on a bulletin board in front of my computer to look at as a reminder.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most?

This is the most difficult question in this interview, what do you have to refer to?  It is in the present?  I run multi Facebook poetry groups with some of the absolute best contemporary poets I know in this world today, I have published many of them.  To list them would be to leave someone special out and I refuse to do that.

9. Why do you write?

A better question is how I resist writing.  My language choices are common; I don’t have the huge IQ, however, thoughts and images come to my mind constantly.  They seem very simple to me and come freely of their own choice.

10. What do you say to someone who asks you “How do I become a writer?”

How do you distinguish desire from flame, emotions messed up into words, how do you explain a belief and turn it into a legacy?  You work your ass-off and have enough confidence to tell editors you’re for real whether they want to believe in your or not.  If not, expressed with a bad tone of voice, delete them and add 5 more poetry publications to take their place and move on.  It’s not like we are getting rich as poets…just some remembered when we/they/I are gone.

11. Tell me about writing projects you are involved in now or resent past?

I’m always buried in projects lucky to get to one, lucky to get one done.  I’m forever coming up with new ideas.  I have published 3 Facebook group poetry anthologies along with Co-Editor Ken Allan Dronsfield:

I have several Facebook poetry groups I administer:




I have over 6 poetry chapbooks of my own poems that have been neglected and I’m hoping to bring them to live and publication before I pass.  I’m also considering a 4th poetry group anthology in the starter stage.  I have over 170 YouTube poetry videos up and running here:  https://www.youtube.com/user/poetrymanusa/videos.

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