Sixth Poet Laureate of Benicia, California
Johanna Ely is a strong lyrical force among the Benicia poets, hosting readings and publishing two books, Transformation and Tides of the Heart. She became the sixth poet laureate of her beloved Benicia from 2016 to 2018.
Johanna Ely always wrote poetry. She was a girl who loved reading and books. Poetry was part of her private world. But love and community drew her into the public arena when she met her partner, Oakland Sam. He recognized the power and beauty of her poems, encouraging her to share her work publicly at poetry reading and community gatherings. She continues to produce the Benecia First Sunday Poetry Series, and frequently appears on Art Beat, the local radio station, OZCAT, as well as in live Bay Area poetry readings.
The full interview includes readings of several of her poems that reveal the charms of Benicia, known as the love poem capital of California. Her poetry is romantic, lyrical and joyous as Johanna herself. Her poems confront the roots of the injustice we struggle against today, as she conjures up poetic stories about the inner lives of the historic women of this area, like Francisca Maria Felipa Benicia de Vallejo, after whom Benicia was named, and Concepción Argüello, Benicia’s 19th Century legendary heroine.
The video interview and reading is part of my new series, Literary Dialog with Nina Serrano. It is the third of the series , the first being, Poetry Comes Out of My Mouth with translator, poet Arturo Mantecon. The second is an interview with Ginea Brice, first Poet Laureate of Vallejo, California and author of A Way With Words. The series can be seen here on my website, ninaserrano.com and on my YouTube channel.