|THE CRYPTIC JOHAN MORE REVEALS MORE ABOUT HIS MOTIVATIONS AND LESS ABOUT HIMSELF|
|By Eric Gillin||
Johan More is the three-year-old kid who screams motherfucker in the middle of the salad course at the Four Seasons.
Invariably, the reader's reaction to his poetry is the same as the diner's reaction to a child's outburst. Many laugh from shock that such a cherubic innocent could spit such vulgarities in a great and loud voice. And others fume, annoyed that such a display occurred amongst such intelligent, self-important people.
Such a simplistic response to Johan More's work leaves many issues under-addressed. While it's easy to laugh and dismiss Johan in the same way that you would a child, the plain fact is that Johan More is a full-grown man in his early thirties who presumably knows what he's writing about. And while it's just as easy to get angry and dismiss Johan as a crackpot, it's clear that he's not just pushing buttons just for the sake of pushing buttons.
There's a mystery at the center of Johan's work that eludes readers and even myself, as the editor who works closest with Johan.
Initially, I was fooled into thinking that Johan More himself was the mystery and I spent hours trying to figure out where this poetry was coming from. But as I developed an e-mail relationship with Johan, whoever I suspected he was at the time, his output was so staggering that I realized it could only come from one person, totally dedicated to his craft. In under a week, shortly after the original batch of poetry ran, Johan More submitted a whopping 48 poems.
That batch has been whittled down to a baker's dozen, while the rest have been set aside for publication in the months ahead. In talking to Johan about his work, especially the recent stuff that is even more focused on race and sexuality, he's typically shied away from explaining the poems.
"There's an old line from an Egyptian parable: 'The sun is hot, my knee sweat is real.' That pretty much sums it up for me," Johan said, when I asked him if there was a real-life incident that inspired "Rock My World, You Spanish Queer."
I think he's got a point. If the sun is hot, then you sweat. And Johan's poetry is nothing more than sweat, a discharge of oils, dirt and water in reaction to the changes in the world around him.
Indeed, More's work is a personal reaction to the world we're all slogging away in. Why he has that reaction will probably remain a mystery until Johan decides to reveal more about himself. But at the end of the day, how readers feel about Johan is just as important as why he writes or who he is.
Once his poems enter your mind, only them do they begin to take on a life. If you're laughing, you must guiltily cast aside the politically correct, "be nice to everyone" mantra that was a fundamental tenet of elementary education. If you're angry, then there's this frustrating question surrounding what is appropriate speech and what is not, forcing you to come to definitive moral conclusions about what you can tolerate.
This is the genius of what Johan is doing -- few people go away without a reaction. But try to pin Johan down on what reaction he's looking for and what exactly he hopes to accomplish with his work and the response is both cryptic and revealing.
"There is a line from Fridgog's "Amsterdam Rainbow" that is quite telling: 'Even if the shoes are wooden, we still must dance'. That pretty much sums it up for me," said Johan.
In the 13 poems that follow, readers would be wise to consider the analogy. Like Johan's poetry, dancing in wooden shoes can be uncomfortable, but there's a joy there that we all are compelled, as humans, to seek out.
"Poetry is the soul of words. That's one thing that people -- so-called "writers" in particular -- tend to forget. Just too many ghosts out there," Johan said.
That pretty much sums it up for me, too.