Denis Johnson’s Wife Cindy Lee

Cindy Lee

Cindy Lee is the lovely wife of late poet, writer, and playwright Denis Johnson. Her award winning husband, the author of Tree of Smoke and Jesus’ Son, died on May 24, 2017. His death was confirmed by a spokesperson from his publisher, he was 67.

Cindy’s husband was born July 1, 1949 in Munich, Germany. He moved a lot growing, living in countries such as the Philippines, Japan, and Washington DC –due to his father’s work for the State Department.

He earned an MFA from the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. Denis who revealed in an essay he was at one point in his life homeless and hooked on drugs, published his first collection of poems, The Man Among the Seals in 1969 –aged 20.

Subsequent collections include Inner Weather (1976), The Incognito Lounge and Other Poems (1982), and The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly: Poems Collected and New (1995). His poems often depict characters on the margins of society.

His numerous novels include Fiskadoro (1985), Nobody Move (2009), and Tree of Smoke, a novel about covert operations in the Vietnam War, won the 2007 National Book Award. Jesus’ Son (1992), his collection of short stories that focus on the lives of drug addicts, was made into a film of the same name in 1999. He received a Lannan Literary Award for Fiction and a Whiting Writer’s Award.

Johnson is also the author of several plays as well as a collection of essays, Seek: Reports from the Edges of America & Beyond (Harper Perennial, 2001).

The famed author was married a few times during his lifetime and is survived by wife number three, Cindy Lee Johnson as well by three children. His first marriage ended due to his alcohol problems.


In 2007, Cindy Lee Johnson accepted the National Book Award in Fiction for “Tree of Smoke” in her husbands honor at the National Book Awards Dinner and Ceremony in New York City.

The couple led a low profile life and not much more is known about Cindy Lee, his children or his previous wives.

We send out condolences to Cindy Lee and the rest of Denis Johnson’s family and friends during this difficult time.