ISU poet claims literary award


Korrie Bysted/Iowa State Daily

Meg Johnson talks about her new poetry book, “The Crimes of Clara Turnlington”, in her office in Ross Hall on Thursday, May 21.

Courtney Sowder

Meg Johnson never thought she would grow up to write poetry, but is glad she did.

Johnson, lecturer in English, was recently awarded the 2015 Vignette Collection Award by Vine Leaves Press. The honor includes a contract to publish her second poetry book, “The Crimes of Clara Turlington as well as a $500 cash prize and a number of author’s copies.

Born and raised in Ames, Johnson moved around and worked professionally in the fine arts of dancing, before returning to lecture in the English Department at Iowa State. An experience she described as “good and strange.”

Johnson began writing creatively in high school, but joked she wasn’t thrilled with the results.

“I don’t want to think too much about what I was writing in high school,” Johnson said.

Her early 20s didn’t begin with the pursuit of writing, but as a member of a dance company. During that time she took creative writing classes without telling anyone and went on to get her MFA in creative writing at the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program. Johnson’s first book, “Inappropriate Sleepover” started out as her thesis but was picked up by the National Poetry Review Press’ 2014 edition, within a year and a half of being in the program.

Johnson describes the speakers in her books as quirky and humorous. The difference in the speakers of her two books would be that the second book’s content is “darker” and “the stakes are higher.”

“Meg’s new book of poems is slyly brilliant, funny and very carefully crafted,” said Jennifer L. Knox, a fellow lecturer in English. “She explores the power of the feminine mind — of rage and imagination — in utterly unique ways that had me laughing and gasping at the same line.”

Students can catch up on Johnson’s work by checking out Inappropriate Sleepover from the ISU library or the Octagon. “The Crimes of Clara Turlington” will be published around December and can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or digitally. You can follow her work at and Jennifer L. Knox will also be releasing a book of poetry in October. More information can be found at