Helen Johnson, who was better known as Helene Johnson was an African-American poet during the Harlem Renaissance. She was also a cousin of author Dorothy West.
Johnson was born in Boston and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts. She never knew her father, and her mother was the child of former slaves. Johnson lived for a time at her grandfather’s house, as well as with two aunts, one of whom nicknamed her Helene. She attended Boston University and Columbia University. Her talents as a writer were noticed early when she won first prize in a short story contest sponsored by the Boston Chronicle. In the 1920s, she moved to New York City with her cousin Dorothy West, a novelist, and became part of the Harlem Renaissance.
She published numerous poems in small magazines during the 1920s and early 1930s, including the first and only issue of Fire!!, edited by Wallace Thurman, Langston Hughes, and Richard Bruce Nugent. Johnson’s work also appeared in journals such as Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life and Vanity Fair and in later anthologies such as The Poetry of the Negro (1949), and American Negro Poetry (1963).
Her last published poems appeared in the mid-1930s, in an issue of Challenge: A Literary Quarterly. Helen Johnson died in 1995.
He catches dust o’ dreams to carry in his sack,
The dust a falling star leaves shining in its track,
He walks the milky-way, then down the dark-staired skies,
His tinkling footsteps hush the world with lullabies.
And when he reaches you, his fragrant gentle hands
Fill deep your drowsy eyes with fairy golden sands.