“To enter the world of Daniel Johnson’s How to Catch a Falling Knife is to enter a playful, celebratory, real, and dangerous place…[Johnson’s] clean, pared down diction recreates real life through the lens of time passed…fearful yet warm, familiar.”
“With slow imagery, fresh syntax, and dry diction, Daniel Johnson crafts a poetry that hunts absence like an animal in the quiet woods.”
“It’s not easy to make interesting poems, yet How to Catch a Falling Knife is full of them…I promise you’ll be surprised and gratified by what you discover.”
“The greatest strength in How to Catch a Falling Knife, Daniel Johnson’s first collection of poems, is its chosen silences. While that may sound like strange praise, this book’s sparseness gives it a paradoxical power where the poet’s ability to know what not to say and when allows what he does say to starkly shine…”
“Fans of poets as disparate as Troy Jollimore, Dean Young and Billy Collins will love Johnson’s How to Catch a Falling Knife—a mournful but wry homage to a childhood in the Rust Belt, to the subtle dangers of family, to overpowering love, to so many things. Johnson’s voice is clear, distinct, and he creates an indelible world that could not have existed without his verse.”
“Daniel Johnson’s collection reads like a contemporary creation myth fanciful and funny and full of strong imagery, poignant surprises, narratives that lodge in the mind at the same time that they zoom us into unexpected, unpredicted places. These poems feel at once deeply introspective and completely at home in the public sphere, shaping and reshaping the sensibility of our times, introducing us to a new poetry, a voice for which we’ve been waiting without knowing it. This is a memorable collection by an important new poet.”
“How to Catch a Falling Knife is a perfect title for this book: there is danger, playfulness, impossibilities made possible, and surprise, in varying doses, in every poem! Most of all though, what I end up loving most about these spare, intense poems, is their heart, their urgent, nutty, burning, utterly whole heart.”
“Daniel Johnson’s debut book has an inventive exuberance of imagery that is startling and ominous. He gives us a beautifully unpredictable account of the everyday dangers among which body and spirit must move. And he celebrates the everyday, too, with great generosity of spirit and an energetic love of our baffling, irrepressible, unbearable lives.”
To Catch A Falling Knife
Temple your hands palm to palm and hold them out. Let slice between your thumbs the day’s last light. To catch a falling knife you have to double-doubt the knife: its rosewood handle doubt and doubt its stone-ground blade or singing down the knife will come cleaving ring from pinky finger, light from dark and what you believe, once and for all, from what you don’t. To catch a falling knife you have to believe there is no knife. Temple, now, your trembling hands.
Zero can hold me for days, small sack of white, and I hold it back, carrying it with me, hollow as a wing bone, weightless as winter light. I bring zero here— where the wind empties its mouth again and again, where seabirds circle and sing, where men squat on buckets to fish— and it swells in me, wet days when the boats ghost past: a zero so large I know I could pass my body through it.
(Dead) we are lugging buckets of black paint through the streets. My sister (dead) stops to darken a pigeon; my mother (dead) stoops to smirch the steps of the church. With bucket and brush, this is our job. Night is night, my father (dead) declares, because it’s dark: so we run through the world, my brother and I, (dead, dead) painting each fleck of light black for the rapist, black for the stars.