On the Record with Annette Johns

SYCAMORE – Annette Johns, who has worn many hats in her life as an actress with The Stagecoach Players and an educator, has always loved poetry.

Only recently has she become a published poet.

Johns’ recently published book of poetry, “Mumbleweeds,” can be bought online on Amazon. Her daughter Beth edited the book.

Other places the book can be purchased include Barnes and Noble, Third Place Books, Edmonds Bookshop and Book Depository for international orders.

Johns spoke to MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton about “Mumbleweeds” and her poetry.

Milton: Tell me about “Mumbleweeds.”

Johns: I’ve always been fond of rhyme, so there is a lot of rhyme in most of the book of poetry, but not all of it. Some of the poems are very structured and some are not. There’s quite a variety. None of them are very long; the only longer one is about my two grandmothers. Some of them are about experiences fishing, sewing, skiing. One is about my son, one is about my daughter and one is about chopping off a chicken’s head. The book is divided into different sections called bundles. Each bundle has a different phrase or title.

Milton: Will you publish some of your other poetry?

Johns: I have another book that will be coming out that will be more complete. These are some of my favorites. … I’ve written all the poems over many years, it’s just a matter of organizing them. The second book will be more completed. The first book is more of a selected book of poetry. The second book will have about 500 poems. I do continue to write.

Milton: What is a poem you have recently written?

Johns: I wrote a funny one recently about the wild turkeys that live in our neighborhood. There’s 15 of them and they’re huge. They like to come into our yard to eat birdseed.

Milton: Tell me about yourself.

Johns: My background, I taught in elementary school in Michigan and then earned a master’s degree in history and philosophy, and later taught at Kish and Waubonsee colleges. I am also an actress. I was with Stagecoach for many years. I started in the 1980s until five or six years ago. I probably averaged a show a year and had a pretty long résumé. I also acted in some other local theaters. I did some directing and backstage stuff, but I was mostly onstage as an actress.

Milton: How did your work affect you as a poet?

Johns: I really enjoyed teaching adults. When I taught philosophy, it’s like I had an open invitation to talk philosophy, which you don’t get to do with everybody. I think the acting was a way to get into different people’s psyches and understand from the inside what motivates and moves people. [The acting] probably has had a deeper or wider impact than the teaching.

Milton: Which poets have inspired you?

Johns: I feel like I’ve been influenced mainly by [Edgar Allan] Poe, so some creepy aspects, and Emily Dickinson. I like it to be very clear and not with references that people usually don’t understand. Mine is much simpler. I don’t know that there’s much philosophy in it.

Milton: Have you always wanted to publish your poetry?

Johns: I’ve been writing for forever, and it feels very personal and very exposed to make it public and publish it. Putting my poetry in a book was my daughter’s idea. She knew I had a lot of poetry written out on pieces of paper, and she decided that something should be done about it. I thought I’m old enough now that it won’t bother me as much if people know.

Milton: What would you say to other poets and writers?

Johns: There are other closet poets out there who are just interested in having it written down, rather than having it published. I wanted to write what I wanted to write, not what publishers were interested in having published. I think if you really want to do it, if you want to write and be published, you just do it. You don’t need to have somebody push you.

Milton: What makes “Mumbleweeds” a great holiday gift?

Johns: It’s really timely. There are several poems related to winter and Christmas. It’s about 130 pages, with one poem on a page. It’s not very big, it’s only $12 on Amazon and it’s easy to read. It’s not difficult or something that you have to study. I think it’s a fun read and it’d make a great gift for someone who loves poetry.

Katrina J.E. Milton

Award-winning reporter and photographer for Shaw Media publications, including The Daily Chronicle and The MidWeek newspapers in DeKalb County, Illinois, since 2012.