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Meet Three Poets

April 11, 2022
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Laura Johnson, Hannah Soyer, & Dawn Terpstra | Memento Vivere, The Ending Hasn’t Happened Yet, & Songs from the Summer Kitchen

@ Artisan Gallery 218 


Memento Vivere by Laura Johnson

In Memento Vivere, a tiny volume of rebellion against death, Cedar Rapids poet Laura Johnson creates a still life of delights and damages reminding both herself and the reader: Remember you must live. (For those missing the reference, “memento mori” is a commonly used phrase meaning “remember you must die.”)

While the repeated imagery of birds, feathers, eggs and flight often appear to be literal vignettes from real life, they also serve as anchoring metaphors between the difficulties of grief both personal and abstract. The book makes several references to 2020, COVID-19 and isolation, as in the poem “Two Thousand and Twenty, Anno Domini”: “These days offer little cosseting. / We search for health and hope– / a scavenger hunt we did not want. / Today, I startle, greeted by a fluttering of parental wings, / in the nest, a small clutch of eggs.”

 About the Poet — Laura Johnson

Laura Johnson was born and grew up in the Midwest. She grew up with two sisters, music, books, and lots of peanut butter sandwiches. She attended the University of Iowa where, in the mid-1980’s, she planned to become a spy. To that end, she studied Russian language and linguistics, as well as history and political science, earning her BA. Upon being awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship for the Teaching of Less-Commonly Taught languages, she went on to earn an MA from Iowa, as well.  During that time, she also attended the Pushkin Institute in Moscow, Russia where she wrote her Master’s thesis on using games to teach language, and she earned a diploma in pedagogy.

After moving back to Iowa after fourteen years in the Deep South, Laura devoted herself to poetry, writing, and creating spaces for writers of all kinds to grow their experiences and get published. She has facilitated numerous writing groups for adult poets and writers in all genres. Mostly currently, she facilitates the Cedar Rapids Writers’ Workshop. Along with two compatriots, Laura co-founded and co-edits the online literary magazine, Backchannels Journal.


Songs from the Summer Kitchen by Dawn Terpstra

 Songs from the Summer Kitchen displays the high-craft of a thoughtful poet — excellent images and metaphors …bodies gliding down sidewalks/were fish swimming…. Terpstra takes you to desert and ocean and all the time-trenched places in-between. Poetic skill only the beginning, I hope you also find the epiphany I experienced.  Poetry fosters such insight, permitting the intimate sensual and intimate virtual to mix. Inside Songs, women of many cultures share both faults and blessings — the wisdom of women. In the end, Terpstra herself describes how this work affects the reader: …how empty we arrive/upon this beach, /how quickly we fill/so full of ocean.   –Dennis Maulsby, Author of Near Death/Near Life 

About the Poet — Dawn Terpstra 

Dawn Terpstra lives in Iowa where she leads a member relations team in the cooperative energy industry. She has spent a career in communications, including work in radio, corporate marketing, and consulting. She earned master’s degrees from Iowa State University in both anthropology and family studies. Her graduate fieldwork was conducted in Guam and Palau. Her poetry appears in The Night Heron Barks, Briar Cliff Review, Citron Review, Persimmon Tree, San Pedro River Review, SWWIM, Third Wednesday, Eastern Iowa Review, Conestoga Zen, and Lyrical Iowa, plus her work is included in Telepoem Booth Iowa, sponsored by Humanities Iowa. She is a finalist for the Midwest Review’s 2021 Great Midwest Poetry Contest. She produces bi-weekly workshop and poetry reading videocasts for the Iowa Poetry Association.


The Ending Hasn’t Happened Yet by Hannah Soyer 

The Ending Hasn’t Happened Yet explores the intersections of disability and trauma through poetry that breaks open our understandings of what it means to live in a body mind that doesn’t quite fit. Both haunting and triumphant, this collection documents the interactions between disabled individuals and a world not set up for them, the necessity of community, and the resilience of living.

“A beautiful collection of being and becoming… It unravels and weaves together the intersections of survival, celebration, and living.”  Dena Igusti, Author of Cut Woman

About the Poet — Hannah Soyer

Soyer (she/her) is a queer disabled writer born and living in the Midwest. Her work explores the representation of “Othered” bodies, and how the arts–in particular storytelling–can be beautiful acts of survival, resistance, and community building. She is the founder of This Body is Worthy, a project aimed at celebrating bodies outside of mainstream societal ideals, and Words of Reclamation, a space for disabled writers. She also happens to be a cat and chocolate enthusiast.  Hannah has presented at various conferences on topics related to disability, language, and embodiment. She is also heavily involved in local disability rights movements and various Disability Justice projects.

An accomplished English and Creative Writing instructor, workshop facilitator, communicator, and freelance writer/editor, Hannah believes in the power of story. She is an experienced writing coach–both creative and academic–and loves helping individuals realize their ideas and translate them to the page.

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