Ronald Johnson


Ronald Johnson was born in Ashland, Kansas, on November 25, 1935, and moved with his family to Topeka in the mid 1950s. He graduated from Columbia University in 1960 and traveled extensively. His first book of poetry, A Line Of Poetry , A Row Of Trees, 1964, contained many  specifically Kansas poems such as "Quivira".  Over the next 32 years, he published seven other major books of poetry as well as a long metaphysical poem titled ARK, created over a 20-year period.  He also had a parallel career as a chef and caterer and produced five cookbooks on American regional cooking.

In 1993, Johnson returned to Topeka and is remembered by many here for his part-time work as a cookie baker at Ward-Meade Park. The gardens there inspired him to write The Shrubberies, the sequence of highly condensed poems which bridge common experience to the universal in a way that is both precise and ecstatic. He died in Topeka on March 4, 1998. 

As a "poet's poet," Ronald Johnson is admired by many of the new generation of American poets. Extensive discussions of his work have appeared on Internet magazines, such as Octopus and LVNG, as well as in several recent books of poetry criticism.

Much of the above biography is attributed to the website:  
( produced by Carol Yoho, Washburn University.

A more complete biography by Eric Murphy Selinger is available at: (

Selinger's biography is a part of an entire website the arches: A RONALD JOHNSON SITE (

For more information about Johnson and his work, see: Ronald Johnson: Life and Works, a collection of essays gathered by Bettridge and Selinger (National Poetry Foundation, May 2008, 670 pp.--link below).

Bibliography ( - housed in Thomas Fox Averill Kansas Studies Collection)


  •  Radios (Flood Editions, 2005) 
  •  The Shrubberies ( Flood, 2001)
  • To Do As Adam Did, Selected Poems of Ronald Johnson (Peter O'Leary Editor; Talisman House, 2000)
  •  ARK (Albuquerque, NM: Living Batch, 1996)
  • ARK 50 (New York: Dutton, 1984)
  •  Southwestern Cooking: New and Old (University of New Mexico, 1985)
  •  The American Table (William Morrow & Co, 1984)
  •  ARK: The Foundations (North Point Press, 1980)
  • RADIOS I-IV (Sand Dollar Press, 1977)
  • Eyes & Objects (Jargon Press, 1976; ten poems reprinted in the journal Screens and Tasted Parallels 1, 1989: 4-12)
  • Maze / Mane / Wane (Pomegranate Press, 1973)
  • Songs of the Earth (Grabhorn-Hoyem Press, 1970; anthologized in An Anthology of Concrete Poetry, Emmett Williams, ed., Something Else Press, 1967)
  • Valley of the Many-Colored Grasses (W. W. Norton, 1969)
  • Balloons for Moonless Nights (limited edition, Finial Press, 1969)
  • The Spirit Walks, The Rocks Will Talk (translations from Le Facteur Cheval and Raymond Isidore; Jargon Press, 1969)
  • The Round Earth on Flat Paper (limited edition, Finial Press, 1968)
  • Reading 1 and Reading 2 (limited edition, Finial Press, 1968)
  •  The Book of the Green Man (W.W. Norton, 1967; Longmans Green, 1967)
  •  The Aficionado's Southwestern Cooking (University of Mexico Press, 1967)
  • GORSE/GOOSE/ROSE and Other Poems (Fine Arts Dept., Indiana University, 1966); Sun Flowers (John Furnival, 1966); Io and the Ox-Eye Daisy (Wild Hawthorn Press, 1965; anthologized in This Book is a Movie: An Exhibition of Language Art and Visual Poetry, Jerry G. Bowles and Tony Russell, eds., Dell, 1971)
  • Assorted Jungles: Rousseau (limited edition, San Francisco: Auerhahn Press, 1966; reprinted in Valley of the Many-Colored Grasses) 
  • Sports & Divertissements (translations from Erik Satie) (Wild Hawthorne Press, 1965; second edition, Finial Press, 1969)
  • A Line of Poetry, A Row of Trees (Jargon Press, 1964; most poems republished as the first section of Valley of the Many Colored Glasses)

A more complete bibliography is available at the website of Eric Murphy Selinger, DePaul University:



Writing Samples

Selected Works

Articles about the author's work

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The Book of the Green Man Author Book
ARK: The Foundations Author Book
The Shrubberies Author Book
Radios Author Book