Johnson Cheu


Johnson Cheu is a poet and assistant professor in the department of writing, rhetoric, and American cultures at Michigan State University. Dr. Cheu does scholarly work in media and cultural studies and disability studies, and also publishes poetry and occasionally creative essays. Currently, he’s working on editing a book about filmmaker Tim Burton and co-editing a book with John A. Dowell on slaughter in popular cinema. He also serves on the APA Advisory Board at MSU. Source


for the young who ask, “How did you learn to like yourself?”


There are glaciers, imposing, yet shrinking.

There is the iris, violet sky cradling shards of sun.

The white Bengal tiger, snow and black ink.

Infinite reasons I could give for gladness,


though none may salve the wound from which

your question arises, how to be glad to be alive?

Stitch your heart’s fissure: recall family, friends,

a slap, cigarette burn, the rod, something smashed 


down, or welled up in your darkened pupil.

Turn outward: two A.M. streets, the creeps in cars,

the chaos of human folly delivered by calm,

coiffed news anchors. The wound is within you


and not. The answer within you and not.

Want, comfort, desire, love ought not be wounds.

We pine for them from our first wail,

what you must give and take, till no voice is left.






Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Childhood & Coming of Age



Literary Devices:


the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words appearing in succession


the absence of a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so…) between phrases and within a sentence


the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of successive clauses


exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally

Internal Rhyme

A rhyme involving a word in the middle of a line and another at the end of the line or in the middle of the next.