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Jonathan Williams at MICA and at Large

Black Mountain School poet, publisher, and documentarian is featured in new exhibit

Posted 01.06.15 by Kathy Cowan '81

“I have been called a Black Mountain Poet, a Southern Poetry Today Poet, a Beat Poet, a Concrete Poet, a Formalist Poet, a Relentlessly & Tiresomely Avant-Garde Poet, a Found Object Poet, you name it.” - Jonathan Williams 

Photograph of MICA faculty, ca. 1969

Jonathan Williams (1929-2008) was a poet, publisher, and documentarian of sights, sites, and language wherever he traveled, and especially in the Appalachian region of the United States, where he lived. He studied at the Black Mountain College, and lived as an adult near Highlands, North Carolina, and in England.

Williams relished vernacular speech, which he often transcribed as concrete poetry, preferring acrostics and anagrams for typographic structure. He revered local and global heroes and heroines, and made pilgrimage to the resting places of such people: Robinson Jeffers, Kenneth Patchen, Marsden Hartley, Charles Ives, Louis Gottschalk, H.D., Hart Crane’s father. Other favored subjects included music + composers + performers (classical, jazz, blues), poetry + poets, and history.

He founded a press, called The Jargon Society, which published poetry by R. Buckminster Fuller, Denise Levertov, Lorine Niedecker, Basil Bunting, Robert Creeley, Charles Olson, Louis Zukofsky, and others, and also photography such as the work of Lyle Bongé.

Williams visited the Maryland Institute College of Art several times in the 1960s, and spent one year at MICA as an artist-in-residence. Here, Williams collaborated with MICA visual arts faculty on artists’ publications in portfolio format, co-creating the following:

The New Architectural Monuments of Baltimore City
by Jonathan Williams and John Sparks (1970)
PS3573 .I55 N4 Cage Folio

Six Rusticated, Wall-Eyed Poems
by Jonathan Williams with graphic realizations by Dana Atchley (1969)
PS3573 .I55 S5 Cage Folio

The Apocryphal, Oracular Yeah-Sayings of Mae West
by Jonathan Williams with drawings by Raoul Middleman (1969)
Special Collections, Cage Folio

January 6 - 30, 2015
Curated by Kathy Cowan '81

Circulation Policy for Books on Exhibit

Circulating books on display in the museum cases are available for check out at any time. Please see a staff member at the circulation desk to request a book from the cases. Titles, when available, may be checked out at any time from the MRC. For books on display from the Special Collections (Cage), please see a reference librarian.

Image Information

Thumbnail: Detail from Six Rusticated, Wall-Eyed Poems.
This Page: Faculty members at MICA, ca. 1970. Left to right: Jonathan Williams, Dana Atchley, Raoul Middleman, Robert Gotsch, John Sparks. Photograph from MICA Archives.