A picture of Kristen Farnam

Street Sense Vendor Carlton Johnson compares the course of his life to a roller- coaster ride.

His journey has had its ups and downs, for sure. But talking with Johnson you clearly get the feeling that in spite of some tough times, he has found joy and pleasure along the way.

When Johnson, a native Washingtonian, found himself homeless a few years ago, he faced a weekly
struggle to earn enough to stay in a low-priced hotel. He discovered Street Sense when another vendor told him about it. He looked at the newspaper and liked what he saw. Soon, Johnson became a Street Sense vendor himself, and a contributing writer for the paper as well.

Since 2008, Johnson has regularly published his poetry in Street Sense and has done other writing for the paper too. When President Barack Obama was elect- ed for his first term as president, Johnson was part of a team of reporters who covered the inaugural celebration.

Johnson’s poetry has also been published by Poetry.com. From these sub- missions he has garnered
additional recognition as an up-and-coming poet.

When asked about the poets who in- spire him, Johnson names Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni. He says he also enjoys some of Edgar Allan Poe’s work, although he believes Poe is “a little on the
insane side.”

He says he is unable to choose a favorite among his own poems, instead declaring all of his poems to be his favorites. Yet at the same time, he pulls a copy of a back issue out of his backpack and offers this stanza from a recent poem:

“Keys used to unlock the mind, hearts, ‘passions of one’s soul’ Colorful possibilities, manipulated
psalms of realities, motivating powerful concepts rooted deeply interlocked insights. Illuminated synergy, illusive passions, stimulated metaphors within realms of profound wordplay, consciousness,
‘passions of one’s soul.’”

Of his poetry he says this: “It’s my art- work. All of my poetry has something to do with my life and my experiences.”

When asked about his particular style or approach to writing, Johnson says his Street Sense byline,
Inkflow sums it up. “It’s the free flow of the Inkflow,” says Johnson with a laugh.

Johnson, who is now 51 and living in an apartment with his father, currently holds a couple of jobs.He does freelance work for an electrician and also serves as a communications technician at Adam’s Center Shelter. Although these jobs are helping him to make ends meet, he says he still enjoys selling Street Sense.

And he always makes sure to find time to nurture his poetry. He is currently com- piling a book of his poems and dreams of seeing it published. He envisions a volume of 30 of his best verses that will leave readers “hungry for more.”