Martin Johns

Poet, Martin Johns, lives in Towcester, Northamptonshire, UK. Writing has formed an important part of Martin’s life, both personally and professionally. For much of his career he worked as a youth and community worker. As a local community activist he regularly writes media releases and produces community newsletters.

His poems have been published in magazines including: The Rialto, Acumen, Sarasvati, Poetry Reach, South Bank Poetry, The Cannon's Mouth and Northampton Poetry Review. He has also had poetry published online at Ink, Sweat and Tears. A poem of his was included in the 2017 anthology Over Land Over Sea, poems for those seeking refuge, published by Five Leaves, in Nottingham.
Martin has given poetry readings at: The International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester, read several times at the Poetry Café in London, and with Carol Ann-Duffy and Friends at the Manchester Royal Exchange. He collaborated separately with three composers from the Royal Northern College of Music, and a composer from the Birmingham Conservatoire. The later collaboration culminated in his work being set to music and performed at the Leeds Lieder Festival 2013.

Martin is very active with a local writers’ group and has given readings at their ‘Words and Music’ events, which he organizes and promotes. In 2016, he ran a workshop project at Milton Keynes YMCA introducing young homeless people to poetry as a means of self-expression and self-exploration. During the pandemic Martin used poetry online for local people experiencing mental health issues. He was awarded an MA (with merit) in Creative Writing (Poetry) from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2016. In 2018, Martin was shortlisted for the Cinnamon Poetry Pamphlet competition. In 2019, his debut poetry pamphlet collection Resting Place, was published by Palewell Press. Don't miss Emma Lee's excellent review. In September 2022, Palewell Press published his next pamphlet poetry collection, Tipping Winter into Spring .

Review by David Lukens in Sphinx magazine

A glass half full

There is a sort of good-natured optimism about many of the poems in this pamphlet. This is not to say that all the poems are cheerful. ‘The Final Score’ presents a bleak picture of serious illness as a musical score that ‘demanded to be played’ and ‘Moon God’ seems to lament the poet’s lot:

And I return to another dead page
between me and existence.

But overall the poems of Tipping Winter into Spring are suffused with a gentle appreciation of life’s complexities and an instinct to find the positive note. The pamphlet’s title suggests a thawing, a reminder of the earth’s capacity to renew itself. In ‘Jet’ a plane disturbs ‘the stillness of a lazy afternoon’ with its roar, but the destruction is only temporary:

Soon the fields, trees and hedgerows recover,
the House Martins resume their flights

The section entitled ‘These Strange Times’ refers, I assume, to the pandemic. Though one might expect a darkening of mood here, there are some heartening upsides. In ‘Beating the Virus’, a papier-maché model of the virus is literally beaten. ‘Going Wild’ contrasts our own lockdown with the sudden freedom afforded to wild animals of ‘cities in slumber’. The following section, ‘Starting Anew’, reminds us of the good things of life: swallows and dandelions, art and music. In ‘Blackthorn’ which seems to me the most acutely observed poem of the collection, the poet admires the ‘visceral beauty’ of the sloe. Danger lurks in ‘sharp spikes as long as your thumb’ but of course all is redeemed by a glass of sloe gin on a winter’s night. I particularly like ‘Standing the test of time’ — an off-beat paean to parents’ feet. Not many people, I bet, can picture these, but in his Mam’s misshapen feet, Martin Johns can see :

the geography of a life equally hard fought.
Moulded by fashion, form over function

‘Good for her’ the poem ends. I, for one, would agree.

David Lukens

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