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John Willson

John Willson

Call This Room a Station

John Willson was born in Los Angeles and grew up in San Diego, where his love of nature sprang from many happy days by the ocean. Like his father, John excelled in high school track, running the fastest quarter-mile in San Diego his senior year. In 1968, when John was thirteen, his father died, one of the events that defined John as a poet and a person.

While attending Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR, John met Kim Anicker, whom he married shortly after graduation. John’s mentor in college, poet Vern Rutsala, served as a model for poetry as a life’s calling and instilled in him an appreciation for poetry’s grounding in everyday experience. In 1975, following an overseas study trip, John traveled to Spain and presented artist Salvador Dalí with an abalone shell. Dalí welcomed him into his home. The visit inspires John to this day.

John earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Irvine, on a Regents’ Fellowship. Shortly thereafter Kim and John moved to Japan, where they lived for a year and a half while teaching English to Japanese businessmen. Themes emerging in his poems from this period still abide in his work, revolving around man, nature, religion, technology, art, love, memory, and death.

After their return from Japan, John and Kim moved to another island, Bainbridge, on Puget Sound, WA. Here, John found a welcoming network of writers and served as the editor of the literary and visual arts publication of the community arts council. With a bias toward the visual element in his own work, John has collaborated with Bainbridge artists Gary Groves, Patty Rogers, Maggie Smith and others to produce resonant juxtapositions with their work and his, in forms including bookmarks, broadsides, a ceramic mural at a public pool, and a chapbook of his poems, The Son We Had, published by Blue Begonia Press.

John is employed by the Bainbridge Park District, for whom he has led a poetry writing workshop since 1992; and by Eagle Harbor Book Company, where he works as a bookseller and heads up the Staff Recommendations section.

Counting Theodore Roethke and Gary Snyder as primary influences, John considers himself a poet of nature whose work reflects lyric and narrative modes. His poems have been published widely in journals and in anthologies including Pontoon: An Anthology of Washington State Poets; Animals as Teachers and Healers: True Stories and Reflections; Spreading the Word: Editors on Poetry; and Under Our Skin: Literature of Breast Cancer.

John is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize and awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Artist Trust of Washington, and the King County Arts Commission. A two-time finalist in the National Poetry Series, he still lives with Kim on Bainbridge, where he has been designated an Island Treasure for outstanding contributions to arts in the community.


Call This Room a Station    $16.00

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John's Poetry (and More) Online

See a 13 minute bio of John filmed for the 2014 Bainbridge Island Treasure Awards.

Read a some of of John's poetry online:

"View, Teardown" is included in Call This Room a Station.


Upcoming Reading Dates


Poem from Call This Room a Station

Urgent buzzing at my feet

draws me down to inspect you
dragonfly with one pair of net-veined
wings stuck in mud by the swamp’s edge

the other pair beating for the sky
your faceted eyes rotating
wildly independent of each other

black ants running up your body
that the Japanese named a pencil after—
tombow—you looking for all

the world fallen
like bamboo bent   not broken.
Well here we are

alive but bound
in need of a miracle   even such a miracle
as I could deliver by

throwing you out to the water
for the mercy of a bird or a fish.
And so I take your wings

between my fingers
lift you out of the mud
fling you into the air where you

hover for a moment
shaking out a rainbow
among a host of your fellows

before you dart away
before you dartleaving me
no angels but in dragonflies.