Jill McCabe Johnson

Jill McCabe Johnson (CNF, Poetry) | San Juan Islands, WA

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Jill McCabe Johnson is the author of the poetry books Revolutions We’d Hoped We’d Outgrown, (Finishing Line, 2017) finalist for the Clara Johnson Award in Women’s Literature from Jane’s Stories Press Foundation, and Diary of the One Swelling Sea (MoonPath, 2013), which won the 2014 Silver Award in Poetry from Nautilus Book Awards. Jill is also the author of the nonfiction chapbook Borderlines (Sweet Publications, 2016) and the poetry chapbook, Pendulum, finalist for the Rane Arroyo Award and forthcoming from Seven Kitchens Press. She serves as series editor for the “Being What Makes You” anthologies from the University of Nebraska Gender Programs, including the anthologies Becoming: What Makes a Woman (2012), essays and poems of pivotal life experiences that make us who we are today, and Being: What Makes a Man (2015), with meditations on the imperative: Be a man. Jill is the founding director of the nonprofit, Artsmith, and serves on the board of the Orcas Island Lit Fest. Honors include a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, a grant from Artist Trust, an American Academy of Poets Award, the Deborah Tall Memorial Fellowship from Pacific Lutheran University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing, and serving as the Louise Van Sickle Fellow in Poetry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she earned her PhD in English. Jill teaches English and Creative Writing at Skagit Valley College in the San Juan Islands.


Revolutions We’d Hoped We’d Outgrown (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Poetry.

Being: What Makes a Man (University of Nebraska Gender Programs, 2015). Editor.  Anthology. CNF/Poetry

Diary of the One Swelling Sea (MoonPath Press, 2013). Poetry.

Becoming: What Makes a Woman (University of Nebraska Gender Programs, 2012). Anthology. CNF/Poetry.


  • Pendulum (Seven Kitchens Press, 2018). Poetry.
  • Borderlines (Sweet Publications, 2016). Non-Fiction.

Blurbs, Press, & Reviews

In one of her essays, Audre Lorde brilliantly redefines the erotic as the capacity to fully experience every dimension of life, from the sensual to the political. Revolutions We’d Hoped We’d Outgrown marvelously illustrates Lorde’s vision. In poems that look at the toughness and tenderness of the body, the joy and dread of consciousness, and the complexities of the intimate and the social, Jill McCabe Johnson continually reaffirms “the lure of thrum, blossom, and burn.” As moving as they are wry and steely, Johnson’s poems are especially urgent in their explorations of the experiences of women in the world, and in their explorations of the psychic violence that pervades much of our daily awareness of contemporary life. Full of vivacity and brokenness, Revolutions We’d Hoped We’d Outgrown is a poetry that we very much need now.
—Rick Barot, author of Chord, winner of the PEN Open Book Award

Jill McCabe Johnson walks through the world aware of both privilege and peril. The pace of her perambulations allows her to exercise (pun fully intended) her keen powers of observation, her formal dexterity, and her considerable lyrical gifts. Revolutions We’d Hoped We’d Outgrown is full of street smarts, hard-earned wisdom, and an emotional depth that shows us how to face all our revolutions, how to survive with “deliverance and grace.”
—Grace Bauer, author of The Women At The Well and Nowhere All At Once

In beautifully shaped, undulant, brief poems (or, one might call them entries in a daybook, bejeweled moments, cries from the heart) Jill McCabe Johnson asserts that the world, specifically the sea, is powerfully alive and available to us by way of the imagination. With precise and lyrical language both scientific and newly created for the occasion, Johnson faces the pain of degradation, yet also celebrates the joyous, nurturing nature of the sea. Diary of the One Swelling Sea is an intimate portrait of elements-become-flesh, rendered by a consciousness and heart large enough, and generous enough, to face the complexity of hard truths.
—Lia Purpura, author of Rough Likeness and King Baby

Living on Orcas Island, Jill McCabe Johnson is a close neighbor to the sea. In her briny poems, she takes us even closer—letting us read the sea’s diary. From sea ground to surface, we see the intimate, inside story. Careful observation, precise research, musical phrasing, and active imagining surge through these poems. Ninety-five percent of the earth’s oceans remain unexplored. What better metaphor for the vast mysteries of our existence—the constant change, the contamination, the resurgence, the essence of life and death. In these elegant poems, forces huge as magma shove up and forces delicate as brittle stars taste changes in sea water. Marvelous.
—Peggy Shumaker, author of Gnawed Bones and Just Breathe Normally

I’m in awe of what Jill McCabe Johnson has accomplished with this gorgeous, stunning book! These brief and modest poems invite the reader into the wise, yet innocent mind of the Sea who pines for his night mistress Mirror (the moon), and watches over his sea creature lovelies that dwell deep in the One Swelling Sea.
—David Huddle, author of Glory River and Black Snake at the Family Reunion

…a lush peek into the life of the briny deep, channeled from a viewpoint we rarely consider. In a rhythmic ebb and flow, we experience what it looks like, what it feels like, to view life from the bottom up.
—Lin McNulty, Orcas Issues

…in succinct daily entries, the poet channels the global ocean, spilling its thoughts on everything from penguins to tides to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Each entry is a broth of scientific precision and finely honed wordplay.
—Barbara Lloyd Michaels, Syndicated Columnist

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