Jonathan Williams' work of more than half a century is such that no one activity or identity takes primacy over any other--he was the seminal small press publisher of The Jargon Society; a poet of considerable stature; book designer; editor; photographer; legendary correspondent; literary, art, and photography critic and collector; early collector and proselytizer of visionary folk art; cultural anthropologist and Juvenalian critic; curmudgeon; happy gardener; resolute walker; and keen and adroit raconteur and gourmand.
Williams' refined decorum and speech, and his sartorial style, contrasted sharply, yet pleasingly, with his delight in the bawdy, with his incisive humor and social criticism, and his confidently experimental, masterful poems and prose.
His interests raised "the common to grace," while paying "close attention to the earthy." At the forefront of the Modernist avant-garde--yet possessing a deep appreciation of the traditional--Williams celebrated, rescued, and preserved those things he described as, "more and more away from the High Art of the city," settling "for what I could unearth and respect in the tall grass." Subject to much indifference--despite being celebrated as publisher and poet--he nurtured the nascent careers of hundreds of emerging or neglected poets, writers, artists, and photographers.
Recognizing this, Buckminster Fuller once called him "our Johnny Appleseed," Guy Davenport described him as a "kind of polytechnic institute," while Hugh Kenner hailed Jargon as "the Custodian of Snowflakes" and Williams as "the truffle-hound of American poetry." Lesser known for his extraordinary letters and essays, and his photography and art collecting, he is never only a poet or photographer, an essayist or publisher.
This book of essays, images, and shouts aims to bring new eyes and contexts to his influence and talent as poet and publisher, but also heighten appreciation for the other facets of his life and art. One might call Williams' life a poetics of gathering, and this book a first harvest.
About the Author
Jeffery Beam is author of over 20 works of poetry and prose. He is poetry editor emeritus of Oyster Boy Review, a retired UNC-Chapel Hill botanical librarian. He is author of What I Found There: An Informal History of the Jargon Society, and the Rain Taxi interview Tales of a Jargonaut. He resides in Hillsborough, NC.Richard Owens is the author of several volumes of poetry, including No Class (Barque, 2012), Clutch (Vigilance Society, 2012) and Ballads (Habenicht, 2012; Eth Press, 2015). His poetry has appeared in Cambridge Literary Review, Hi Zero, Poetry Wales, Shearsman, and elsewhere; his critical comments and essays have appeared in Chicago Review, Colorado Review, Open Letter, Paideuma, and Poetry Project Newsletter. Since 2005 Owens has edited Damn the Caesars, a journal of contemporary poetry and poetics, and Punch Press, an imprint featuring broadside, chapbook, and book-length works. He currently resides in Southern Maine.