A Pacific Northwest native, William Johnson holds a doctorate in Medievel Studies from the University of Denver. He is a former Professor of English at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston. Johnson is the author of What Thoreau Said: ‘Walden’ and the Unsayable (University of Idaho Press, 1991) and Out of the Ruins (poetry) from Confluence Press, 2000. He has won fellowships from the Idaho Humanities Council, the Idaho Commission on the Arts, the University of Montana’s Environmental Writing Institute, and Oregon’s Fishtrap.
Can poetry matter to us? Should it? How might it address, or even correct, the frenzy of electronic overload and the barrage of artificial media that increasingly assault us? Poems, especially when remembered or read aloud, offer moments of bodily recognition and spiritual insight, an antidote, however quiet, in a world where so much is brash, ephemeral, cheap and mass-produced. Poetry reminds us how exhilarating it is to hear one unique human voice speaking freshly about what matters.
Thoreau: Wilderness and the Wild This talk weaves together biography, ecology and aesthetics toward a better understanding of Thoreau’s wilderness thought and art. It begins with an overview of Thoreau’s life (as writer, observer, handyman, walker, and surveyor) as it moves between civilization and nature, and in turn presents selections from his writing that show how nature comes alive and takes on meaning in his art. Thoreau prods us to explore our own experience of nature, in both critical and creative ways. The talk concludes by suggesting how Thoreau’s insights on “the wild” shed light on current discussion and debate about wilderness. Johnson encourages the audience to begin a dialogue on wilderness and the wild, so Thoreau’s insights can be taken back into everyday lives.