Jonathan Williams

Jonathan Williams (March 8, 1929 – March 16, 2008) was an American poet, publisher, essayist, and photographer. He is known jw001as the founder of The Jargon Society, which has published poetry, experimental fiction, photography, and folk art since 1951.

Williams attended St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., and then Princeton University, before dropping out to attend the Chicago Institute of Design and Black Mountain College, where he studied painting and graphic arts with Stanley William Hayter.

Along with David Ruff, Williams founded The Jargon Society in San Francisco in 1951 , with the goal of publishing obscure writers.

Associated with the Black Mountain poets, Williams was inspired by the visual arts, music, and the natural world; he experimented with found poetry and at times illustrated his work. His interests included civil rights, Appalachia and the Appalachian Trail, folk arts, and avant-garde poetry.

Through the relatively obscure but highly influential Jargon Press, Williams promoted the writings of such poets as Denise Levertov, Lorine Niedecker, Basil Bunting, Robert Creeley, Charles Olson, Louis Zukofsky, Paul Metcalf, Lou Harrison, Mina Loy, Joel Oppenheimer, Ronald Johnson, James Broughton, Alfred Starr Hamilton and many other works by the American and British avant-garde.

Once described as a “a busy gadfly who happened somehow to pitch on a slope in western North Carolina,” Williams was a living link between the experimental poets of Modernism’s “second wave” and the unknown vernacular artists of Appalachia. Guy Davenport likened Williams’ use of “found language” to the use of “found footage” by avant-garde filmmakers, as well as describing Williams as a species of cultural anthropologist. Williams for his part explained the fascination of such material in plainer terms:

“Well, as you know, a lot of my poetry is found and that’s, I think, because I think I’m quite a good listener and I’m willing to lay back and listen, and I think it’s something do with living in the country. I mean, this place, Skywinding Farm, there are times when Tom Meyer and I will only see somebody from the outside world once or twice a week. And we’ve known each other so long that we don’t talk as much as we might. Tom can talk up a storm, He’s up there in the Duncan/Olson class. So I like to listen and I like to hear things, so if you listen carefully then you do find things. I do it all the time. I mean, you know the early book, Blues and Roots, which was done in the course of walking a big piece of the Appalachian Trail, I listened to mountain people for over a thousand miles and I really heard some amazing stuff. And I left it pretty much as I heard it. I didn’t have to do anything but organize a little bit, crystallize it, you know. That’s the thing I love about found material, you wake it up, you “make” it into something.”

The literary critic Hugh Kenner described Williams as the “truffle hound of American poetry”.


Section A:
Books & Broadsides

1. GARBAGE LITTERS THE IRON FACE OF THE SUN’S CHILD
jargon_garbagelitters
First edition:
San Francisco: Jargon, June 1951
Broadside measuring 4″ x 13″ folded twice to make a 4″ x 5″ leaflet, 50 copies, letterpress printed by David Ruff at The Print Workshop. Engraving by David Ruff Published as Jargon 1. (Jaffe A4)
[not in archive]

2. RED / GRAY
a. First edition, regular copies:
Black Mountain: Jonathan Williams, January 1952
Folio sheet folded three times to make a 12-page gate-fold booklet, 8.5″ x 10″ (when folded), 100 copies. Drawings by Paul Ellsworth tipped in. Printed at the The Sad Devil Press by Joel Oppenheimer at Black Mountain College. Published as Jargon 3. (Jaffe A7)

b. First edition, hardcover copies:
Black Mountain: Jonathan Williams, January 1952
Folio sheet folded three times to make a 12-page gate-fold booklet, 8.5″ x 10″ (when folded), 50 copies signed by the writer  and illustrator. Drawings by Paul Ellsworth tipped in. Printed at the The Sad Devil Press by Joel Oppenheimer at Black Mountain College. Published as Jargon 3. (Jaffe A7)

3. FOUR STOPPAGES / A CONFIGURATION
First edition:
Stuttgart: Jonathan Williams, 1953
Folio sheet measuring 40″ x 15″ folded three times to make eight panels in envelope with Williams’ printed military return address, 200 copies. Drawings by Charles Oscar, 200 copies. Published as Jargon 5 (Jaffe A8)

4. JAMMIN’ THE GREEK SCENE
Not published:
Karlsruhe: Jonathan Williams, 1959
Approximately 4 proof copies were produced for a projected edition of 300 copies, but the book, with a cover designed by Fielding Dawson, was never published. (Jaffe A16)
[not in archive]

5. THE EMPIRE FINALS AT VERONA
First edition:
Highlands: Jonathan Williams, September 1959
Perfect-bound in printed and illustrated French-fold wrappers, 8″ x 10.75″, 32 pages. Drawings and collage by Fielding Dawson. Published as Jargon 30. (Jaffe A12)

6. LORD! LORD! LORD!: TRADITIONAL FUNERAL MUSIC
First edition:
Highlands: Jonathan Williams, 1959
Folding card, 5.5″ x 4.5″, handset and printed “for the friends of the Jargon Press” by Igal Roodenko. (Jaffe A13)

7. AMEN / HUZZA / SELAH
First edition:
Black Mountain: Jargon, Summer 1960
Perfect-bound in printed and illustrated french-fold wrappers, 5.5″ x 8″, 44 pages, 700 copies. Preface by Louis Zukofsky. Photographs by Jonathan Williams. Published as Jargon 13a. (Jaffe A15)

8. ELEGIES AND CELEBRATIONS
First edition:
Highlands: Jargon, Summer 1962
Perfect-bound in printed and illustrated french-fold wrappers, 5.5″ x 8″, 48 pages, 750 copies. Preface by Robert Duncan. Photographs by Aaron Siskind and Jonathan Williams. Published as Jargon 13b. (Jaffe A22)

9. IN ENGLAND’S GREEN &
williams_englandsFirst edition:
San Francisco: Auerhahn Press, July 1962
Hand-sewn printed wrappers, 6.5″ x 9.25″, 20 pages, 750 copies, letterpress printed by Dave Haselwood. Illustrated by Philip Van Aver.
(Auerhahn 20) (Jaffe A23)

10. EMBLEMS FOR THE LITTLE DELLS, AND NOOKS, AND CORNERS OF PARADISE
First edition:
London: Jargon, 1962
Broadside measuring 14.25″ x 9″ folded twice, 300 numbered and signed copies, letterpress printed by Tom Raworth. Illustrated by Samuel Parker. Published as Jargon 62. (Jaffe A24)

11. LULLABIES TWISTERS GIBBERS DRAGS
First edition:
Highlands: The Nantahala Foundation, August 1963
Saddle-stapled in printed and illustrated wrappers, 4″ x 9″, 20 pages, 1000 copies, letterpress printed by Villiers Publications, Ltd. in London. Cover design by R.B. Kitaj. Published as Jargon 61. (Jaffe A27)

12. DAVENPORT GAP
First edition:
Highlands: Jargon, December 1963
Broadside, 3.75″ x 8.5″, 750 copies. Published as Jargon Billboard #1. (Jaffe A 28)



13. PETITE COUNTRY CONCRETE SUITE
First edition:
Detroit: The Fenian Head Centre Press, 1964
Saddle-stapled in printed and illustrated wrappers, 4.5″ x 6″, 20 pages, 100 numbered and signed copies, letterpress printed. (Jaffe A33)


14. LINES ABOUT HILLS ABOVE LAKES
williams_linesa. First edition, regular copies:
Fort Lauderdale: Roman Books, March 1964
Perfect-bound in printed wrappers, 6.25″ x 9″, 27 pages, 750 copies, letterpress printed by Dave Haselwood at the Auerhahn Press. Illustrated by Barry Hall. Foreword by John Wain. (Auerhahn 34) (Jaffe A 29)

b. First edition, hardcover copies:
Fort Lauderdale: Roman Books, March 1964
Hardcover, 6.25″ x 9″, 27 pages, 50 numbered and signed copies, letterpress printed by Dave Haselwood at the Auerhahn Press and bound by the Schuberth Bindery. Illustrated by Barry Hall. Foreword by John Wain. (Auerhahn 34) (Jaffe A 29)

15. TWELVE JARGONELLES FROM THE HERBALIST’S NOTEBOOK
[not in archive]

16. FOUR JARGONELLES FROM THE HERBALIST’S NOTEBOOK
[not in archive]

17. PAEAN TO DVORAK, DEEMER & MCCLURE
First edition:
San Francisco: Dave Haselwood, March 1966
Hand-sewn printed wrappers, 6.5″ x 4″,  32 pages, circa 100 copies, letterpress printed by Dave Haselwood. (Haselwood 6) (Jaffe A 34)

18. TEN JARGONELLES FROM THE HERBALIST’S NOTEBOOK

19. AFFILATI ATTREZI PER IGIARDINI DI CATULLO
First edition:
Milan: Lerici Editori, November 1966
Perfect-bound in printed wrappers, 5″ x 8″, 124 pages, printed by Interpress Arti Grafiche in Milan. (Jaffe A39)


20. POLYCOTYLEDONOUS POEMS
First edition:
Stuttgart: Edition Hansjörg Mayer, 1967
Single sheet measuring 18.25″ x 25 folded four times to make 8 panels, 1000 copies. Published as Futura 15. (Jaffe A40)


21. EIGHT JARGONELLES FROM THE HERBALIST’S NOTEBOOK
[not in archive]

22. LULABIES TWISTERS GIBBERS DRAGS
(Jaffe A42)
[not in archive]

23. FIFTY EPIPHYTES
First edition:
London: Poet & Printer, Summer 1967
Saddle-stapled in printed wrappers, 4″ x 8″, 16 pages, 600 copies, printed by Alan Tarling in London. (Jaffe A43)


24. MAHLER BECOMES POLITICS . . . BEISBOL
[not in archive]

25. A FRENCH 75!
[not in archive]

26. THE LUCIDITIES
First edition, regular copies:
London: Turret Books, 1967
Hardcover in printed and illustrated dust jacket, 32 pages, 150 copies. Illustrated by John Furnival.

First edition, numbered and signed copies:
London: Turret Books, 1967
Hardcover in printed and illustrated dust jacket, 32 pages, 100 numbered and signed copies. Illustrated by John Furnival.

27. A BESTIARY FOR ANTI-LAODICEANS, LAMED-VOVNIKS & LACANDONS
[not in archive]

28. THE PLASTIC HYDRANGEA PEOPLE POEMS

29. SHARP TOOLS FOR CATULLAN GARDENS
[not in archive]

30. RIPOSTES
First edition:
Stuttgart: Edition Domberger, December 1968
Hand-sewn in printed wrappers enclosed in blind-stamped portfolio, 7.5″ x 9″, 12 pages, 200 numbered and signed copies. (Jaffe A56)


31. AN EAR IN BARTRAM’S TREE
First edition:
Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, March 1969
Hardcover in printed and illustrated dust jacket, 7″ x 10″, 162 pages, 2000 copies. Introduction by Guy Davenport. Illustrated by William Bartram. (Jaffe A57)

32. ON ARRIVING AT THE SAME AGE AS JACK BENNY
First edition:
Champaign: The Finial Press, 1969
Hand-sewn wrappers, 9.75″ x 12.75, 8 pages, 40 copies, letterpress printed by A. Doyle Moore at The Finial Press in Champaign. (Jaffe A58)


33. SIX RUSTICATED WALL-EYED POEMS
(Jaffe A60)
[not in archive]

34. THE APOCRYPHAL, ORACULAR YEAH-SAYINGS OF THE ERSATZ MAE WEST
[not in archive]

35. THE APOCRYPHAL, ORACULAR YEAH-SAYINGS OF MAE WEST

36. STRUNG OUT WITH ELGAR ON A HILL

THE PATAGONIAN DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
First edition:
Champaign: Bill Desmond, 1971
Hand-sewn in printed french-fold wrappers, 5.75″ x 8.25″, 4 pages, 6 signed copies, letterpress printed by Bill Desmond (a student of A. Doyle Moore, The Finial Press). (Jaffe A66)

THE LOCO LOGODAEDALIST IN SITU
First edition:
London: Cape Goliard Press, 1972
Perfect-bound in printed and illustrated wrappers, 7.25″ x 9.75″, 152 pages. Illustrated by Joe Tilson. (Jaffe A 67)


COLONEL COLPORTEUR’S WINSTON-SALEM SNAKE-OIL
First edition:
Winston-Salem: Jonathan Williams, 1973
Corner-stapled in printed and illustrated coversheet, 8.5″ x 14″, 37 pages, 50 copies, xerox printed. (Jaffe A72)






Further reading:
Jacket Magazine
Poetry Foundation


References consulted:

JONATHAN WILLIAMS: A BIBLIOGRAPHIC CHECKLIST OF HIS WRITINGS, 1950-1988, compiled by James S. Jaffe
Haverford: James S. Jaffe Rare Books, 1989

THE BOOKS OF JONATHAN WILLIAMS: CHECKLIST 1952-1979, compiled by Arthur Uphill
London: Coracle Press, 1979