Tag Archives: Black Mountain College

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”.


A. Primary Publications

1. Williams, Jonathan. GARBAGE LITTERS THE IRON FACE OF THE SUN’S CHILD
jargon_garbagelitters
(San Francisco): Jargon, 1951
First edition, 4″ x 13″ broadside folded twice to make a 4″ x 5″ leaflet, engraving by David Ruff, 50 copies. Printed by David Ruff at The Print Workshop. Published as Jargon 1. (Jaffe A4)

 

2. Williams, Jonathan. LA VIE ENTRE LES GADARENES (INFINITY FIRST, NOT LAST)
Black Mountain: Grapnel Press, 1951
First edition, 8.5″ x 11″ sheet folded once, 150 copies with envelope. (Jaffe A6)

3. Williams, Jonathan. RED/GRAY
Black Mountain: Jargon, 1952
First edition, 8.75″ x 10″ folio with halftone drawings by Paul Ellsworth tipped in, 100 copies. Publishes as Jargon 3. (Jaffe A7)

4. Williams, Jonathan. FOUR STOPPAGES / A CONFIGURATION
Stuttgart: Jargon, 1953
First edition, 40″ x 15.25″ sheet folded three times to make eight panels, 200 copies. Drawings by Charles Oscar. Publishes as Jargon 5. (Jaffe A8)

5. Williams, Jonathan. THE EMPIRE FINALS AT VERONA
Highlands: Jargon, 1956
First edition, perfect bound illustrated wrappers, 8″ x 10.75″, 26 pages, 1000 copies. Collages by Fielding Dawson. Publishes as Jargon 30. (Jaffe A12)

6. Jonathan Williams. LORD! LORD! LORD!: TRADITIONAL FUNERAL MUSIC
Highlands: Jargon, 1959
First edition, folded card in envelope, 5.5″ x 4.25″, handset and printed “for the friends of the Jargon Press” by Igal Roodenko. Published as Jargon 39. (Jaffe A13)


Further reading:
Jacket Magazine
Poetry Foundation

References consulted:
JONATHAN WILLIAMS: A BIBLIOGRAPHIC CHECKLIST OF HIS WRITINGS, 1950-1988. Compiled by James S. Jaffe

 

The Jargon Society

The First 50, a checklist

The following list contains only those titles appearing in the sequence beginning with Jonathan Williams’ Garbage Litters the Iron Face of the Sun’s Child (Jargon 1). Jargon Society postcards, broadsides, billboards and other ephemeral items are not included.


1. Williams, Jonathan. GARBAGE LITTERS THE IRON FACE OF THE SUN’S CHILD
jargon_garbagelitters
(San Francisco): Jargon, 1951
First edition, 4″ x 13″ broadside folded twice to make a 4″ x 5″ leaflet, engraving by David Ruff, 50 copies. Printed by David Ruff at The Print Workshop. Published as Jargon 1. (Jaffe A4)


2. Oppenheimer, Joel. THE DANCER
jargon_dancerHighlands: Jargon, 1951
First edition, illustration by Robert Rauschenberg, 150 copies. Printed at the The Sad Devil Press, Black Mountain College. Published as Jargon 2.



3. Williams, Jonathan. RED / GRAY 
Black Mountain, 1952
Drawings by Paul Ellsworth, 100 copies.

4. Kalos, Victor. THE DOUBLE-BACKED BEAST
Black Mountain, 1952
Drawings by Dan Rice, 25 copies.

5. Williams, Jonathan. FOUR STOPPAGES / A CONFIGURATION
Stuttgart, 1953
Drawings by Charles Oscar, 200 copies.

6. Patchen, Kenneth. FABLES & OTHER LITTLES TALES
Karlsruhe, 1953
450 copies.

7. Olson, Charles. THE MAXIMUS POEMS / 1-10
Suttgart, 1953
Calligraphy by Jonathan Williams, 300 copies, 9″ x 12″, 46 pages plus prospectus by Creeley.

8. Creeley, Robert. THE IMMORAL PROPOSITION
Karlsruhe, 1953
Drawings by René Laubiès, 200 copies, 15 pages.

9. Olson, Charles. THE MAXIMUS POEMS / 11-22
Suttgart, 1956
Calligraphy by Jonathan Williams, 350 copies.

10. Creeley, Robert. ALL THAT IS LOVELY IN MEN
jargon_allthatAsheville: Jonathan Williams – Publisher, 1955
First edition, perfect bound in illustrated wrappers, drawings by Dan Rice, photograph by Jonathan Williams, 6″ x 8″, 44 pages, 200 copies. Signed by Creeley and Rice on the colophon. Printed by the Biltmore Press. Published as Jargon 10. (Novik A6)

11. Patchen, Kenneth. POEM-SCAPES
Highlands, 1958.

12. Zukofsky, Louis. A TEST OF POETRY
New York, 1964.

13a. Williams, Jonathan. AMEN / HUZZA / SELAH
Black Mountain, 1960
“A Preface?” by Louis Zukofsky. Photographs by Jonathan Williams.

13b. Williams, Jonathan. ELEGIES AND CELEBRATIONS 
Highlands, 1962
Preface by Robert Duncan. Photographs by Aaron Siskind and Jonathan Williams.

13c. Williams, Jonathan. JAMMIN’ THE GREEK SCENE 
Nota by Charles Olson. Drawings by Fielding Dawson. James Jaffe notes, “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.” Karlsruhe, 1959.

14. Duncan, Robert. LETTERS: POEMS 1953-1956
Highlands, 1958
Drawings by Robert Duncan.

15. Zukofsky, Louis. SOME TIME
Sutgart, 1956
A song setting on the cover by Celia Zukofsky.

16. Oppenheimer, Joel. THE DUTIFUL SON
Highlands, 1957
Frontispiece by Joseph Fiore.

17. Perkoff, Stuart Z. THE SUICIDE ROOM 
Karlsruhe, 1956
Drawing by Fielding Dawson. Photograph by Charles Kessler.

18. Irving Layton. THE IMPROVED BINOCULARS
Highlands, 1956.
Introduction by William Carlos Williams. Second edition includes thirty additional poems.

19. Denise Levertov. OVERLAND TO THE ISLANDS
Highlands, 1958
Drawings by Al Kresch. Calligraphy by Jonathan Williams.

20. Michael McClure. PASSAGE
mcclure_passageBig Sur: Jonathan Williams – Publisher, 1956
First edition, sewn wrappers, 7.25? x 10.75?, 12 pages, 200 copies. Cover by Jonathan Williams. Published as Jargon 20. Printed by the Windhover Press. (Clements A1)



21. Kenneth Patchen. HURRAH FOR ANYTHING 
Highlands, 1957
Drawings by Kenneth Patchen.

22. Henry Miller. THE RED NOTEBOOK
Highlands, 1958
Drawings by Henry Miller. Phorograph by Wynn Bullock.

23. Mina Loy. LUNAR BAEDEKER AND TIME-TABLES
Highlands, 1958
Introductions by William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth and Denise Levertov. Drawings by Emerson Woelffer.

24. Charles Olson. THE MAXIMUS POEMS
New York, 1960
Photograph by Frederick Sommer. Published in association with Corinth Books.

25. Paul C. Metcalf. WILL WEST
Asheville, 1956.

26. Robert Creeley. THE WHIP
Highlands, 1957
Cover design by René Laubiès. Drawings by Kirsten Hoeck.

27. Peyton Houston. SONNET VARIATIONS
Highlands, 1962
Photograph by Henry Holmes Smith.

28. Irving Layton. A LAUGHTER IN THE MIND
Highlands, 1958
Photograph by Frederick Sommer.

29. Bob Brown. 1450-1950
New York, 1959
Photograph by Jonathan Williams.

30. Jonathan Williams. THE EMPIRE FINALS AT VERONA
Highlands, 1959
Drawings and collage by Fielding Dawson.

31. Williams, Jonathan ed. 14 POETS, 1 ARTIST 
New York, 1958
Drawings by Fielding Dawson. Contributors include Paul Blackburn, Bob Brown, Edward Dahlberg, Max Finstein, Allen Ginsberg, Paul Goodman, Denise Levertov, Walter Lowenfels, Edward Marshall, E.A. Navaretta, Joel Oppenheimer, Gilbert Sorrentino, Jonathan Williams and Louis Zukofsky.

32. Walter Lowenfels. SOME DEATHS
Highlands, 1964
Introduction by Jonathan Williams. Photographs by Robert Schiller.

33. Robert Creeley. A FORM OF WOMEN
New York, 1959
Photograph by Robert Schiller. Published in association with Corinth Books.

34. Bob Brown. THE SELECTED POEMS 
Introduction by Kay Boyle. Drawing by Reuben Nakian. Jargon 34 was projected but never published.

35. Irving Layton. A RED CARPET FOR THE SUN
Highlands, 1959
Photograph by Harry Callahan.

36. Larry Eigner. ON MY EYES
Highlands, 1960
Introduction by Denise Levertov. Photographs by Harry Callahan.

37. Russell Edson. WHAT A MAN CAN SEE
Highlands, 1969
Drawings by Ray Johnson.

38. Giuseppe Gioachino Belli. THE ROMAN SONNETS
Highlands, 1960
Translated by Harold Norse. Preface by William Carlos Williams. Introduction by Alberto Moravia. Cover by Ray Johnson. Collage by Jean-Jacques Lebel.

39. Jonathan Williams. LORD! LORD! LORD!: TRADITIONAL FUNERAL MUSIC
Highlands, 1959
Handset and printed “for the friends of the Jargon Press” by Igal Roodenko.

40. Gilbert Sorrentino. THE DARKNESS SURROUNDS US
Highlands, 1960
Introduction by Joel Oppenheimer. Collage and drawings by Fielding Dawson.

41. Lou Harrison. THREE CHORUSES FROM OPERA LIBRETTI
Highlands, 1960
Jargon’s Christmas in 1960

42. Ronald Johnson. A LINE OF POETRY, A ROW OF TREES
Highlands, 1964
Drawings by Thomas George. Printed by the Auerhahn Press, San Francisco.

43. Paul C. Metcalf. GENOA: A TELLING OF WONDERS
Highlands, 1965
Iconography by Jonathan Williams.

44. Buckminster Fuller. UNTITLED EPIC POEM ON THE HISTORY OF INDUSTRIALIZATION
Highlands, 1962
Introduction by Russell Davenport.

45. Sherwood Anderson. SIX MID-AMERICAN CHANTS
Highlands, 1964
Photographs by Art Sinsabaugh. Preface by Edward Dahlberg. Postface by Frederick Eckman

46. Guy Davenport. FLOWERS AND LEAVES
Highlands, 1966
Photograph by Ralph Eugene Meatyard.

47. Merle Hoyleman. Letters to Christopher
Introduction by George Marion O’Donnell. Jargon 47 was projected but never published.

48. Lorine Niedecker. TENDERNESS & GRISTLE: THE COLLECTED POEMS (1936-1966)
Penland, 1968
Plant prints by A. Doyle Moore.

49. Alfred Hamilton Starr. POEMS
Penland, 1970
Introduction by Geof Hewitt. Drawings by Philip Van Aver. Photograph by Simpson Kalisher.

50. Doris Ulmann. THE APPALACHIAN PHOTOGRAPHS OF DORIS ULMANN
Penland, 1971
Introduction by John Jacob Nies. Preface by Jonathan Williams.


References consulted:

A Jargon Society Checklist
Books & Company 1979

Jargon at Forty: 1951-1991
SUNY, 1991