Tuesday, April 11, 2017

National Poetry Month: Jonathan Williams

A selection from Elite/Elate Poems, 1971-1975,
with notes by the author/collector
Jonathan Williams

"The Storm of Early October 1701"

it is such a thing as hath not
bene in this Country in no
ag of man

thier is butt one ocke tree butt
it is a very good one
and al sheffeard too butt
it stod

bemun is very much disturbed about is trees
he wants stakes

hear will be aboundance
of fier wood


"A Country Wordsman From the North Carolina Hills
Looks at Levens And Shapes the Language in His Own Way:"

’ary toe pie?

This little sonic metaphor does not seem far-fetched to me in the slightest. Any imagination capable of turning a bush into a corkscrew or a “Judge’s Wig” or a rabbit is able to consider making a pie out of toes.


"John Chapman Pulls Off the Highway
Towards Kentucky and Casts a Cold Eye
On the Most Astonishing Sign in Recent American Letters:"


"Paint Sign on a Rough Rock
Yonside of Boone Side of Shady Valley:"


This selection of found poems and antique spellings appeared in
Elite/Elate Poems: Selected Poems 1971-1975 by Jonathan Williams (Jargon Society). Here is the poet and publisher himself, holding forth on the subject of Jonathan Williams by way of explanation, from the Jargon Society website: “Poets are forever seeing things, whether Angels in trees, or just things written on the sides of buses like ‘Jesus Saves & Satisfies. Are You?’ Poets are forever hearing things—‘always the deathless music!’ I like to catch people speaking ‘poems’ who never heard of the word poet in their lives. It has been my business, along with others (W. C. Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Lorine Niedecker) to try to raise ‘the common’ to grace; to pay very close attention to the earthy. I no more write for ‘nice’ people that I do for ‘common’ ones. I make poems for the people who want them. ‘He was Southern, and he was a gentleman, but he was not a Southern Gentleman’ which is Allen Tate talking about Edgar-Allen-Poe-White-Trash. I sense a tradition there."

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