James Daniel Johnson, known by his friends as “J.J.” or Daniel, aspires to be a successful poet. He began writing poetry in prison, while serving time in 1997. Since then, Johnson has completed several collections of poetry and continues to write.
He plans to publish his newest collection, “Internal Reflections-It Is What It Is,” on Kindle, and also in a print edition.
One of the poems included in Johnson’s upcoming collection, A Lot Worse, (see page 9) gives a sense of the personal struggles the author has experienced, and provides a brief summary of the where Johnson has been, and where he plans on going.
Johnson says there is a poem in his collection for everybody. He writes about religion, love, overcoming adversity, drug addiction, homelessness, and his time in prison.
“My poetry for me is a way to vent and express what I’m feeling,” he says. Johnson relates his material to what others are feeling too, and he thinks that what makes his poetry powerful.
Born in Florence, South Carolina, Johnson came to the District to pursue his writing career. Five collections of poetry later, with a sixth on its way James is grateful for the many people he has met in the city who have supported his poetry.
The first piece of poetry Johnson published in Street Sense was entitled “Respect the Dream,” a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It appeared in the February 26 edition.
“Working with Street Sense gives me an opportunity to share my poetry with the public, and to get myself some exposure,” said Johnson.
He said he wants to continue contributing his poetry to Street Sense, and occasionally sell papers as a vendor as well.
He likes to work out, jog, listen to music, read his Bible, and put together sermons that he emails to friends.
He wants to work with youth, sharing his story in the hopes of teaching lessons about the value of sobriety and independence.
Following a rough childhood, self-medication with drugs and alcohol pushed Johnson into a downward spiral.
“Addiction took me for a hell of a ride,” he says. A rough sentence in prison convinced him that he needed to get his life together, if only to avoid getting locked up again.
Despite facing obstacles in the pursuit of his goals, Johnson is resilient and has maintained his sobriety
“I have a lot to be grateful for. Sometime when I want to complain, I say well, I look at the plus. I am free, I am sober, I am healthy, I have potential, I got hope.”