Essays, Poems, and
(Turtle Point)After Hedda Hopper and Liz Smith, Jonathan Williams must be the biggest name-dropper in the biz: Thelonius Monk, James Thurber, James Dickey, Gil Evans, Ezra Pound. He republishes an obscure book by Sherwood Anderson, and insists on listing all the famous people who write him thanks --- Otto Kerner, Governor of the State of Ohio, Charles Olson, poet, Harry Partch, composer, Edward Dahlberg, writer.
He not only gets letters from the famous, he sends them, willy-nilly: "I dispatched amused postcards to the likes of Charles Mingus and John Handy."
There are a wad of photographs of the likes of Kenneth Patchen, Robert Duncan, Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Creeley, Carl Ruggles, and James Laughlin. That lets us know that Williams not only knows them, he knows them well enough to clown around with them in front of the camera. He even shows us a letter from William Carlos Williams ("Dear Williams, Don't let the 'glum' days get you...")
In between the names, when there is room, we find clumps of poems, essays, criticism, memorials --- in fact, everything, apparently, that he had stored away under his bed and in the closet. It's not unlike the pick-up full of stuff that you and I took to the dump last Sunday: all the rejects of our days, all at sixes and sevens.
But it's lazy days in the Jonathan Williams research department. There is a chapter on short poems called Clerihews. Williams quotes one of the most famous and one of the most racist:
Then, he says, "I can never remember the English war poet who wrote it." A moment with the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations would have told him that it was William Norman Ewer (1885 - 1976).
Let us pray that there is no follow-up volume. If so, he should call it Blackbird Droppings.--- Ignacio Schwartz