One of American’s national treasures, the poet and publisher Jonathan Williams, has died:

“His public persona was a real crank, a gadfly, a loose cannon,” said Thomas Meyer, a poet and Williams’ partner for more than 40 years. “But there was this extraordinary generosity.” …

“Jonathan Williams was truly a Renaissance man. He was articulate on topics as various as baseball and music in the same breath. He spent his career combining visual arts with the spoken and written word, integrating all the arts since his days at Black Mountain College,” said Pam Meyer, executive director of the Asheville Art Museum, which has a wide collection of Williams’ photography. …

Besides his work as a publisher, Williams was a prolific poet, essayist and critic in his own right, with more than 100 books, broadsides, postcards and other published works. His last book “Jubilant Thicket: New and Selected Poems” contained a selection of 1,000 of Williams’ poems. …

Williams said in a 1995 interview that the world didn’t owe him anything as an artist. He adopted his motto from the French novelist Gustave Flaubert: “I am frankly a bourgeois living in seclusion in the country, busy with literature, and asking nothing of anyone, not consideration, nor honor, nor esteem…. I jump into the water to save a good line of poetry or a good sentence of prose from anyone. But I don’t believe, on that account, that humanity has need of me, any more than I have need of it.”

I wrote about him here and quoted a couple of poems, which I urge you to read; Mark at wood s lot has a full set of links and more poems. Here’s one for the road:

Gardyloo! (A Salutation for Christopher Murray Grieve
On the Occasion of His 75th Birthday, August 11, 1967)

May Glen Fiddich trickle down the burns
and white roses replace heather!

May Burns, Dunbar, MacDiarmid
trickle in the minds
and climate replace weather!

May your conturbation
rouse the artless Nation!

“May your Bottom
never be used
to stretch a Banjo!”

—the latter toast
Chris Grieve gave me in Langholm,
presumably a gist
from the Gaelic-Scots, the original, alas,
now lost . . .

I salute his zest!


  1. I’ll pour a forty for him and Arthur C. Clarke.

  2. John J Emerson says

    Just a tribute — he seemed to be a constant presence during the 60s and later, making good things happen.

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