Tyrone Williams

Walking through speech to speaking

As someone interested in mapping the stop-and-start iterations of experimental American poetry, I cannot help but situate the self-interrogations and cultural/political analyses of Jill Magi’s SPEECH in relation to Robert Grenier’s infamous provocation “I HATE SPEECH.”[1] Though sometimes cited as a rallying call for Language writing, the declaration’s context (e.g., the Berkeley Free Speech Movement) and afterlife (Grenier would go on to compose, among other things, drawing poems), however much a “breach,” as Ron Silliman called it, with the voice-centered p

Word for word (PoemTalk #152)


In Seattle, Washington, Al Filreis convened Kate Colby, Tyrone Wiilliams, Mónica de la Torre, and Aldon Nielsen to talk about a late poem of Wallace Stevens, “The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain.” The group collaborates on an enumeration of possibilities for understanding the poet’s current ruminative state as a retrospective view of his previous poems and old ideas about poetry. Past perfect and conditional language — had needed, would be right, would discover, could lie — make us doubt that there is or ever was such a thing as a “there” in “There it was.” There what was? The words? The new words of this poem? The old words on previous poems about the uphill climb of poetic career? The new poem about such old poems re-presents the word-for-word mountain and never really means, it seems, to stand in for the thing itself. This isn’t mere exhaustion. It’s a final development of theory.

A provisional map of who/what/where we are

When I first learned that the University of New Mexico Press was publishing Inciting Poetics, a collection of essays edited by Jeanne Heuving and Tyrone Williams, I was excited for a number of reasons.

A word for me (PoemTalk #148)


Tyrone Williams, William J. (Billy Joe) Harris, Aldon Nielsen, and Erica Hunt joined Al Filreis — host, producer, and moderator — for a live presentation of a special episode of PoemTalk before an audience gathered in the Arts Café of the Kelly Writers House back in November 2019. They discussed many of Erica Hunt’s concerns, across her poetry and her work as public intellectual and activist, by way of a single poem called “Should You Find Me.” It is the final poem, and — the group comes to agree — the coda to the book Time Slips Right Before Your Eyes, published by Belladonna* in 2006.

'Some quality of song': Al Young


Black/women are alive after tomorrow

The most provocative mark in this anthology may be the virgule or forward slash that separates the last quarter of the title — Radical Writing — from the opening three quarters of the title — Letters to the Future: Black Women. I’ve analyzed elsewhere the function of the colon, a staple in academic article and book titles, so I won’t discuss that here.

'Our' extremities, 'my' extremes

In his rightfully famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. recounts his confusion, refusal, and eventual acceptance of the label “extremist” from his critics. King notes that there are two tendencies of extremity: extremism for moral good and extremism for moral evil. And as he puts it in “Call to Conscience,” insofar as America is an extremist nation for moral evil per its actions in Vietnam, he and other antiwar protesters are morally compelled to be extremists for good.

Something in the way (PoemTalk #126)


Tyrone Williams, Aldon Nielsen, and William J. Harris joined Al Filreis in the Arts Cafe of the Kelly Writers House to talk before a live audience about Amiri Baraka’s poem “Something in the Way of Things (In Town).” The printed poem has been published in several versions; one version can be read below. It is best known as a cut on The Roots’ Phrenology album (2002). Baraka came to the lower Manhattan studio (Electric Lady Studios in Greenwich Village) where The Roots were recording some of the album’s tracks; there Baraka performed the poem as the band backed him. The result can be heard here.

The hand's reach (PoemTalk #115)


Two poems performed by Tyrone Williams (video)

From his recent reading given at the Kelly Writers House, we present two video excerpts (thanks for the video editing of Dylan Leahy of the PennSound staff).

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