Jonathan Williams

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Jonathan Williams Feature

Bob Arnold

Swept in with the Rain


1

I sadly read many fine blogs and appreciations after the death of Jonathan Williams. I love seeing poets come to bat for their pals, and I can only live with myself and mankind if I likewise see it happening for the poets while they are still alive. Otherwise, what are we doing?

2

Williams was a class act at speaking up for and supporting the outsider, the backward but bird-fluted voice, art and lullabies and poetries of all sorts of stripes. He'd done it with his Jargon press since college age and he passed away, royally even, as an old man. His books were always published, even if only the choir read them, but the quality was lasting stuff. He's going to stick around, and so is Jargon because Black Mountain isn't going to topple quite yet, nor all those names, or the buddies he made, and the enriched ingredients of how the man was formed himself. Mud and wattle. A thatch hut, a long gone walking trail, good books and good humor and so good memories of the guy.

3

We never met but we spoke on the phone once upon a time about Lorine Niedecker and a book I published he wanted in quantities to give as gifts to his friends. See what I mean - thinking of others, even if he did sometimes come across in print as a crank. His photographs are marvelous and personal. His poetry swept in with the rain.

4

When I was on the phone with Williams it gave me the opportunity to tell him how I wrote him once in the late 1960s when I was a boy about my enthusiasm for discovering Kenneth Patchen and all the wholesome work he did for that poet. He wrote me back a full page letter about Patchen, beautifully typed and enthused. It was the first letter I ever received from another writer. It was so important and respectful, and conscientious, that I bet it'll stay in me and become my last.

Bob Arnold

Bob Arnold

Bob Arnold, poet, Longhouse publisher and bookseller, wrote this piece for his Woodburners We Recommend column on the Longhouse web site in April 2008.

 
 
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