Tag Archives: Southern Gothic

A Poet in the Science Library

“Backmasking” by Harold Whit Williams.

One wouldn’t necessarily expect to find a poet in the stacks of a science library, but then again, creativity often occurs in the least anticipated of places.

The Life Science Library boasts among its staff a prize-winning poet, as Library Specialist Harold Whit Williams has garnered praise for his work, which is both a catalog of his experience as a musician, and reflective of his southern heritage. His most recent collection of poems, Backmasking, earned Williams the 2013 Robert Phillips Chapman Poetry Chapbook Prize from Texas Review Press, and his poem “Blues Dreams,” received the 2014 Mississippi Review Poetry Prize.

In some ways, it would seem to make perfect sense that Williams would understand the finer points of cadence and pentameter  — he’s also the guitarist for notable Austin pop band Cotton Mather.

Williams’ first collection of poetry, Waiting For The Fire To Go Out, was published by Finishing Line Press, and his work has appeared in numerous literary journals.

Whit kindly indulged a line of questioning about his poetry, his music and his life at the Libraries. 

When did you start writing poetry? Was it an outcropping of your music?

Harold Whit Williams: I’ve been writing poetry off and on since college days, but started giving serious attention to it, and publishing, now for about seven years.

Strange, but poetry is a totally separate thing to me from songwriting. As a guitarist first, my songs, or the guitar parts I play in Cotton Mather, happen musically first. Then lyrics come later. But with poetry, it’s all wordplay from the get-go, and the musicality in the words themselves tend to direct where I go in a poem.

Does the inspiration for poetry and music come from the same place, even though the jumping off point is different? Or are they driven by different urges? 

HWW: Good question. What makes me plug in an electric guitar and make loud horrendous noise has to come from a much different urge than the one making me get to a quiet place, alone, to jot down a poem. Continue reading

Tennessee at College

 

Playbill for The Garden Players production of "Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay" by Bernice Dorothy Shapiro and Tom Williams, July 12, 1935. Courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center.

For once, we’re pretty happy that a lack of space has become an issue on campus.

Thanks in no small part to the ridiculously extensive Tennessee Williams holdings at the Harry Ransom Center, the Fine Arts Library has gotten the chance to host an overflow exhibit of materials related to the HRC’s massive homage to the Southern Gothic playwright, “Becoming Tennessee Williams.”

The companion exhibit at FAL, “Tennessee Williams, the College Years” features a limited number of items from Williams’s time in the academy – both at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and at the University of Iowa – including photos, correspondence, manuscripts and more.

The exhibition opens today and runs through July 31 in the Roberts Reading Room at FAL, where it can be viewed Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends from noon to 5 p.m.