Jonathan_Williams_(poet)

Jonathan Williams (poet)

Jonathan Williams (March 8, 1929 - March 16, 2008) was an American poet, publisher, essayist, and photographer. He is known as the founder of The Jargon Society, which has published poetry, experimental fiction, photography, and folk art for more than fifty years. He died March 16, 2008 in Highlands, NC from pneumonia

Overview

Based in Scaly Mountain, North Carolina, both Williams and his publishing venture had long been associated with the Black Mountain Poets. Among the press's offerings are works by Charles Olson, Paul Metcalf, Lorine Niedecker, Lou Harrison, Mina Loy, Joel Oppenheimer, Ronald Johnson, James Broughton, Alfred Starr Hamilton and many other works by the American and British avant-garde.

Once described as a "a busy gadfly who happened somehow to pitch on a slope in western North Carolina," Williams was a living link between the experimental poets of Modernism's "second wave" and the unknown vernacular artists of Appalachia. Guy Davenport likened Williams' use of "found language" to the use of "found footage" by avant-garde filmmakers, as well as describing Williams as a species of cultural anthropologist. Williams for his part explained the fascination of such material in plainer terms:

Well, as you know, a lot of my poetry is found and that’s, I think, because I think I’m quite a good listener and I’m willing to lay back and listen, and I think it’s something do with living in the country. I mean, this place, Skywinding Farm, there are times when Tom Meyer and I will only see somebody from the outside world once or twice a week. And we’ve known each other so long that we don’t talk as much as we might. Tom can talk up a storm, He’s up there in the Duncan/Olson class. So I like to listen and I like to hear things, so if you listen carefully then you do find things. I do it all the time. I mean, you know the early book, Blues and Roots, which was done in the course of walking a big piece of the Appalachian Trail, I listened to mountain people for over a thousand miles and I really heard some amazing stuff. And I left it pretty much as I heard it. I didn’t have to do anything but organize a little bit, crystallize it, you know. That’s the thing I love about found material, you wake it up, you “make” it into something.
The literary critic Hugh Kenner described Williams as the "truffle hound of American poetry."

A longtime contributing editor of the photography journal Aperture, Williams lived in Scaly Mountain, North Carolina.

References

External links

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