The Collected Poems of Tennessee Williamsby Tennessee Williams
The definitive edition of all of the playwright/poet's poetry. Tennessee Williams, acknowledged lyric master of American drama, first came to the attention of New Directions founder James Laughlin as a young poet who subsequently appeared in an early anthology, Five Young American Poets, 1944. Over the years, Williams was cajoled into publishing two volumes of his poetry, In the Winter of Cities (1956, expanded in a 1964 paper edition) and Androgyne, Mon Amour (1977). Now, as his letters, his journals, and his previously unpublished plays are appearing to further our understanding of this complex artist whose piercing honesty and compassion for life's misfits and the dispossessed have won audiences all over the world, it is time to look to the full body of his poetry for insight into the private heart of the mannot his charactersand for appreciation of his unique (and very American) poetic voice. In this definitive edition of The Collected Poems of Tennessee Williams, all of the playwright/poet's previously collected and uncollected published poems, including poems from the plays, have been assembled, accompanied by explanatory notes and selected variants. The collection is the work of textual scholar David Roessel (co-editor, The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, Knopf 1994), and Williams specialist Nicholas Moschovakis, undertaken in conjunction with the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, who inherited the copyrights to all of Williams's work.
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PART I : IN JACK-O'-LANTERN'S WEATHER
IN JACK-O-LANTERN'S WEATHER
The marvelous children cut their pure ice capers north of time. Being very restless expert skaters, never did they trace the same design twice over,
but each, completed, had to be detached and lifted clean on aerial derricks, green and boned as swallows.
None wrote home, no bulletins were issued of their progress which he, the demon, thought that he could block with barricades of gold and purple tin foil labeled Fear and other august titles which they took in their stride, leapt over lightly, always tossing backwards calls of gladness, that echoed behind them long after they leapt and were gone.
Much green water, rumorous and vague, talked of their loss, discussed them in home quarters, rolled ghostly tokens shorewards, corduroy and lawn, scraps of song, unfinished arithmetic problems, thumbprints on dog-eared books tossed into corners. Mothers' sorrow often must be thorned by soft bird language, earlier than morning, snow brought indoors in exchange for grandmothers' cupboards of linen, undignified, flung in every-which-a-direction, shouts that broke windows, orchards festooned by something wilder than blossoms!
Oh mothers' sorrow grievously is pricked by jacks and apples of the earth's green-tongued refreshment, storms that came on without warning, calls, calls, running through orchards calling, Comehome! Come home! before it gets dreadfully dark and hailstones fall as big as goose eggs, nearly! Stillness. Distance ... A spiral of dust, a little upright figure that bends and twists in curtsies, that does a pavan that's stately and gay and capricious, is stalking about home plate as if he thought he owned it! Now has begun to hum, to whisper the names of lost ballplayers ... the first dark coins of moisture fall on the diamond ...
O Mother of Blue Mountain boys, come to the screen door, carnug, Come home! Come home! White milkwagons are hurrying, hurrying down wet darkening streets, there isn't much time!
I have seen them earlier than morning cross the hall, serious-eyed and weighted down by schoolbooks, as if alarm clocks set at premature hours had roused them from sleep before it let them go ... I have seen their pencil-mark distinctions between this thing and that one, their blue angles, sharper than gymnastics. In Jack-o'-Lantern's weather, their orderly, schoolteachered troop to the Sunflower River for an inspection of Flora along those banks where blacks in white shifts held springtime baptismals, Ha, ha! shouting ... I have seen them never less than azure-eyed and earnest tackle geometry problems whose Q.E.D. is surely speechless wonder ...
Mothers' sorrow grievously is thorned by shreds of arctic light through dark pine branches, halting the morning with hawk-bone print of heaven.
The weather, as ever, is clearing again, with shreds of blue and vapor appearing among dark branches ... O Madonna, aged by unequal sorrows but clothed as ever in silk, blown, cherry-printed,
O singing white enchantress, I summon thee now, clothed as sorrow is in snow and snow.
TESTA DELL' EFFEBO
Of Flora did his luster spring and gushing waters bathed him so that trembling shells were struck and held until his turning let them go.
Then gold he was when summer was; unchangeable this turning seemed and the repose of sculpture told how thinly gold his shoulder gleamed.
A cloud of birds awoke in him when Virgo murmured half awake. Then higher lifted birds and clouds to break in fire as glasses break.
A lunatic with tranquil eyes he must have been when he had dimmed and that town burned wherein was turned this slender copper cast of him.
CRIED THE FOX For D.H.L.
I run, cried the fox, in circles narrower, narrower still, across the desperate hollow, skirting the frantic hill
and shall till my brush hangs burning flame at the hunter's door continue this fatal returning to places that failed me before!
Then, with his heart breaking nearly, the lonely, passionate bark of the fugitive fox rang out clearly as bells in the frosty dark,
across the desperate hollow, skirting the frantic hill, calling the pack to follow a prey that escaped them still.
THE EYES For Oliver
The eyes are last to go out. They remain long after the face has disappeared regretfully into the tissue that it is made of. The tongue says good-by when the eyes have a lingering silence, for they are the searchers last to abandon the search, the ones that remain where the drowned have been washed ashore, after the lanterns staying, not saying good-by ...
The eyes have no faith in that too accessible language. For them no occasion is simple enough for a word to justify it. Existence in time, not only their own but ancestral, encloses all moments in four walls of mirrors.
Closed, they are waiting. Open, they're also waiting. They are acquainted, but they have forgotten the name of their acquaintance.
Youth is their uneasy bird, and shadows clearer than light pass through them at times, for waters are not more changeable under skies nor stones under rapids.
The eyes may be steady with that Athenian look that answers terror with stillness, or they may be quick with a purely infatuate being. Almost always the eyes hold onto an image of someone recently departed or gone a long time ago or only expected ...
The eyes are not lucky. They seem to be hopelessly inclined to linger.
They make additions that come to no final sum. It is really heard to say id their dark is worse than their light, their discoveries better or worse than not knowing.
but they are last to go out, and their going out is always when they are lifted.
FAINT AS LEAF SHADOW
Faint as leaf shadow does he fade and do you fade in touching him. And as you fade, the afternoon fades with you and is cool and dim.
A wall that rises through no space, division which is shadow-thin, his eyelids close upon your eyes' quicksilver which bewilders him.
And then you softly say his name as though his name upon your tongue a wall could lift against the drift of shadow that he fades among.
Excerpted from THE COLLECTED POEMS OF TENNESSEE WILLIAMS by David Roessel and Nicholas Moschovakis. Copyright © 2002 by David Roessel and Nicholas Moschovakis. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
EYES TO SEE OTHERWISE
By Homero Aridjis
Translated by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Edited by BETTY FERBER AND GEORGE McWHIRTER
A NEW DIRECTIONS BOOK
Copyright © 2001 Homero Aridjis. All rights reserved.
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