Melissa Johnson grew up in Lancaster, SC where she ate a lot of tomato sandwiches, fried okra, and watermelon fresh from her family’s small farm and big gardens.
No one believes this–a skepticism steeped in stereotype–because she read a lot of books and got a few academic scholarships, but she was a cheerleader in high school. She also wasn’t and isn’t extroverted, sunny, or a sports fan, so perhaps she was a little ill-suited to be a cheerleader, but she set her mind to it for some reason. She’s nothing if not dogged.
A first-generation college student, she earned a B.A. in English and Fine Arts from the College of Charleston, and an MFA in poetry and a Ph.D. in twentieth-century British literature and Women’s Studies from the University of South Carolina.
Her poetry has appeared in Borderlands, Waccamaw, Kakalak, The Connecticut Review, Farmer’s Market, The Potomac Review, The Cortland Review, and other journals. Her poetry chapbook, “Looking Twice at the World,” pictured below, was a winner of the 2007 South Carolina Poetry Initiative Chapbook Contest and was published by Stepping Stones Press (out of print). In 2016, she was a contributor at the Sewanee Writer’s Conference. She’s been trying to publish a full-length poetry collection since 1996 and she has four completed manuscripts and an impressive mountain of rejections to show for it–see dogged. Her second chapbook, “Cancer Voodoo,” will be published by Diode Editions in 2021.
She also publishes scholarly writing and her day-and-night-job is Professor and Chair of the Department of Focused Inquiry at Virginia Commonwealth University.