Patrick Johnson, author of Gatekeeper
A Room of One's Own welcomes Patrick Johnson, author of Gatekeeper!
What is the deep web? A locked door. A tool for oppression and for revolution. “An emptying
drain, driven by gravity.” And in Patrick Johnson’s Gatekeeper—selected by Khaled Mattawa as
the winner of the 2019 Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry—it is the place where connection is darkly
transfigured by distance and power. So we learn as Johnson’s speaker descends into his inferno, his Virgil a hacker for whom “nothing to stop him is reason enough to keep going,” his Beatrice the elusive Anon, another faceless user of the deep web. Here is unnameable horror—human trafficking, hitmen, terrorism recruitment. And here, too, is the lure of the beloved. But gone are the orderly circles of hell. Instead, Johnson’s map of the deep web is recursive and interrogatory, drawing inspiration and forms from the natural world and from science, as his speaker attempts to find a stable grasp on the complexities of this exhilarating and frightening digital world.
Patrick Johnson earned his MFA in poetry at Washington University in St. Louis and completed
his undergraduate at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is currently studying to become a
physician assistant, and lives in Madison.