Poet Interview #45: Michael Lee Johnson

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Who/what first inspired you to start writing. Who are your favorite poets?

I was drawn to poetry by no roots or direction of my own, a drifter, a nowhere to go person. I was a basketball, sports star in high school, and then had an early marriage at 17 with child. That was a short two year marriage, and then I moved back to my hometown, Niles, Michigan. Funds from my mother allowed me to attend university where I fell in love and then lost that love. the poems began in 1968.

My first love was, and still is, Carl Sandburg. I read everything and imitated his voice better than anyone I know to this day.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKS1Xc1cIFQ.

Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Irving Layton, Charles Bukowski, Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood. Favorite Books: The Bible, As A Man Thinketh by James Allen, Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet (early poems).

How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you unexpectedly, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … come? Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poetry?

 I write poems out of the darkness, in the sun of early morning. I am always equipped and ready: sometimes on a walk while looking at the sky; sometimes on a 3″ x 5″ index card; sometimes on my old fashion mini-cassette recorder. Wherever the poem or phrase, I listen to it. I don’t fix a schedule for writing; if I was that disciplined I would be a deadline man; but then I’ve been in advertising and sales a long time, and was a social worker before that.

Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?  

I am extremely active on all social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Facebook Groups, Pinterest, Stumblers, and LinkedIn. Whenever a poem is accepted or published, I present it to all my social media. I am also extremely active on YouTube with over 94-poetry videos to this date.

You can find me in Google by searching: “Michael Lee Johnson poet, Itasca, IL.  Alternatively:






Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?

The main writing group I am involved with for 2 years is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/807679459328998/ which is now approaching 7,000 members.

I have created, published and sold one of the best selling poetry anthologies ever on Amazon.com, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1530456762

I’m presently working on the 2nd poetry anthology called Dandelion In A Vase Of Roses.

What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?

First, you need to understand the odds. New poets are lucky if they get published 2-3% of the time. That means 2 or 3 times out of 97 rejections. Never give up hope. I am published at a very high rate of about 10-15% of the time. There are many reasons why one gets rejected: poor timing, the editor has problems or hasn’t had time to look, the editor simply doesn’t like your style, it was a themed submission and your poems didn’t fit, they only publish once a year, you didn’t read the submission guidelines carefully enough, the list goes on and on. Never give up hope.

Advice? I started a poetry site in my home community of Itasca, IL and no one cared. In fact, they tossed the draft issue in my face after 45 years had passed. Then I got the idea to start a group not based on geography but rather on interest. Thus, my poetry site:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/807679459328998/

Contemporary Poets, Their Works, Current Poetry Projects, News, and Links. Since only about 8-12% of the population really loves poetry this brings together a concentrated group that can help, comment, make suggestions, see new poetry sites to submit to and offers a natural audience to find talent for a poetry anthology. On this site, I build confidence in inexperienced poets who only need a little support to move on into the published world of poetry. Poets need to keep a spreadsheet with a list of publishers and add to it. When you go to a Facebook poetry group you will see other related sites to the right side. When you go to an online publisher site you should always look for “Links” or “Other Sites We Love.” Keep records in that spreadsheet of growing publishers: date sent, name of publication, website, what “batch” of poems you sent, the editors name, the results. Then each month make a tally of the number of publishers contacted, percentage of poems accepted, etc.  Create your own Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Facebook Group, Pinterest, Stumblers, and other social media and move forward.


Published by


Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site 17Numa.wordpress.com where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, reviews, and books can be found. He is a Best of the Net and three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Scott's poetry books include: Songs of a Dissident (Transcendent Zero Press, 2015), Chaos Songs (Weasel Press, 2016), Happy Hour Hallelujah (CTU Publishing, 2016), and Poison in Paradise (Alien Buddha Press, 2017). Scott is a member of The Southern Collective Experience; he also serves as an editor for Walking Is Still Honest Press, The Blue Mountain Review, The Peregrine Muse, and Novelmasters.

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