Sunday, January 04, 2015

Arkansas poet Miller Williams, 1930 - 2015, taught at LSU and McNeese as well as the U of A

Miller Williams, 1930 - 2015

The late poet Miller Williams (1930 - 2015), studied at Hendrix, said the Arkansas Times. He taught at LSU and McNeese State for a number of years. Williams began teaching at Arkansas in 1970. He co-founded the University of Arkansas Press, which he directed for two decades.

Folk singer Lucinda Williams is his daughter.

He read his poem, "Of History and Hope," at Bill Clinton's second inauguration.

At Centenary College, he was 1993 recipient of the John William Corrington Award. Said Centenary teacher and poet David Havird, "When the novelist Ernest Gaines accepted Centenary's invitation to become the second recipient (after Eudora Welty) of the John William Corrington Award for Literary Excellence, he recalled that decade when he was first publishing and observed, 'Many young Southern writers unknown then are known today. And much of that can be credited to Corrington and to Miller Williams.'"

"To my ear," said Havird, "some of Williams's early poems, the more formal ones, bring John Crowe Ransom to mind - Williams wrote a critical study of Ransom - just as some of his poems from the 1980s bring Frost to mind with their conversational iambic pentameters and homespun philosophical ruminations, especially in his dramatic monologues, those poems spoken not by himself but by characters he's invented: the "serial murderer," for instance, 'who says something to the priest.'"

"But he has more humor than Frost and a more liberal spirit, influenced as he was by the progressive Methodism of his clergyman father who was active in the Civil Rights Movement," continued Havird. "An excellent formal craftsman, Williams is as capable of producing a memorable line and image as he is of philosophizing. Of a woman waiting tables in a bar: 'Her smile smeared the air when she turned her head.'"

If you go to the Arkansas Times obituary, you can read about one night in Lake Charles, 1952, when Williams bought Hank Williams a beer after a show.

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