Friday, January 2, 2015

R.I.P. Miller Williams (1930-2015)

Posted By on Fri, Jan 2, 2015 at 9:39 AM

click to enlarge miller.jpg

The year is off to a rough start with the news that Miller Williams, renowned poet and former Arkansas Times contributing writer, died yesterday in a Fayetteville hospital. He was 84 and had been struggling with Alzheimer's for several years. 

Born in Hoxie, Williams studied at Hendrix and later got a masters in zoology at the University of Arkansas, teaching at various small colleges for a number of years until he joined Arkansas' English department in 1970. He went on to co-found the University of Arkansas Press, which he directed for two decades, and remained a professor emeritus until his death. Miller was the father of Lucinda Williams and famously read his poem, "Of History and Hope" at Bill Clinton's second inauguration. In addition to his own poetry, he published translations of prominent poets like Pablo Neruda and Nicanor Parra. 

For our 40th Anniversary issue in September, I reached out to Williams to see if he remembered anything about his association with the Times. He wrote me back to say that by then, unfortunately, he didn't. "At 84, I probably don't have a lot of this frustration ahead of me, but there's plenty now," he said. 

I recommend this interview with Williams from the Oxford American, which is full of great stories about his relationships with, among others, Flannery O'Connor and Hank Williams: 

OA: Did you ever meet Hank Williams in person?

MW: Yes, [in 1952] I was on the faculty of McNeese State College in Lake Charles, Louisiana, when he had a concert there. I stepped onstage when he and his band were putting their instruments away and when he glanced at me I said, "Mr. Williams, my name is Williams and I'd be honored to buy you a beer." To my surprise, he asked me where we could get one. I said there was a gas station about a block away where we could sit and drink a couple. (You may not be aware that gas stations used to have bars.) He asked me to tell his bus driver exactly where it was and then he joined me. When he ordered his beer, I ordered a glass of wine, because this was my first year on a college faculty and it seemed the appropriate thing to do. We sat and chatted for a little over an hour. When he ordered another beer he asked me about my family. I told him that I was married and that we were looking forward to the birth of our first child in about a month. He asked me what I did with my days and I told him that I taught biology at McNeese and that when I was home I wrote poems. He smiled and told me that he had written lots of poems. When I said, “Hey—you write songs!” he said, “Yeah, but it usually takes me a long time. I might write the words in January and the music six or eight months later; until I do, what I've got is a poem.” Then his driver showed up, and as he stood up to leave he leaned over, put his palm on my shoulder, and said, “You ought to drink beer, Williams, ’cause you got a beer-drinkin’ soul.”


UPDATE: Here's a small selection of Williams' 1970s work for the Times, six poems and a short story called "The year Ward West took away the racoon and Mr. Hanson's garage burned down."

sixnewpoems.pdf

williamsfiction.pdf

Tags: , ,

Favorite

Speaking of Miller Williams, Books

  • The 50th anniversary of Portis' 'Norwood'

    May 19, 2016
    Former Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist and features writer Kyle Brazzel, who left Little Rock to work for the business side of the New Yorker and now does freelance writing, has an excellent appreciation at The Awl of Charles Portis' first novel, "Norwood," on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. /more/
  • Tonight: The Oxford American Pop-Up Shop and more at 4th Friday in SoMA

    February 26, 2016
    Tonight marks the return of 4th Friday in SoMa, a new monthly event organized by businesses on South Main Street, which will stay open later than usual to accommodate the local community and showcase SoMa's latest offerings. The Root Cafe will be serving dinner until 9 p.m., Loblolly Creamery will be up and running until 8 p.m. — other participating restaurants include Midtown Billiards, Raduno Brick Oven & Barroom, South on Main and Community Bakery. /more/
  • Wayman Hogue's Ozark classic 'Back Yonder' revived by University of Arkansas Press

    February 18, 2016
    The University of Arkansas Press has released its Spring 2016 catalog, and it's a great list, particularly for poetry fans and Arkansas history buffs. There's an oral history of the Arkansas Democrat, a monograph on Bill Clinton's racial politics (blurbed by Cornel West) and a new edition of Waymon Hogue's "Back Yonder: An Ozark Chronicle," edited by Brooks Blevins. "Back Yonder," which will be out in April, was originally published in 1932 and is the first of the press' new Chronicles of the Ozarks series. /more/
  • Sloane Crosley, Adam Hochschild, Peter Guralnick, Kiese Laymon and more announced for 2016 Arkansas Literary Festival

    February 10, 2016
    The Arkansas Literary Festival has announced its 2016 lineup, a list that includes Sloane Crosley ("I Was Told There'd Be Cake"), Adam Hochschild ("King Leopold's Ghost"), Peter Guralnick ("Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock'n'roll"), Kiese Laymon ("How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America") and more. The festival will be held April 14-17 in downtown Little Rock. /more/
  • In Memoriam: C.D. Wright, 1949-2016

    January 15, 2016
    C.D. Wright could be two things at once. In her poetry, she was a voice from very far away that spoke directly and intimately to our secret interiors. In her life, she was a venerable genius who shocked younger generations of poets by constantly championing our work and encouraging us to write ferociously on our own terms. /more/
  • Eliza Borné is named editor-in-chief of the Oxford American

    October 26, 2015
    The Oxford American, the quarterly literary magazine based in Little Rock, announced this afternoon that interim editor Eliza Borné will take over as editor-in-chief, the magazine's third since it was founded in 1992. A Little Rock native, Borné has been an editor at the magazine since 2013, and previously worked at the Nashville publication Bookpage. /more/
  • Zadie Smith, Lois Lowry to headline Fayetteville Literary Festival in October

    September 15, 2015
    The Fayetteville Literary Festival is fast approaching, with events scheduled Oct. 1-7 at the Fayetteville Public Library. The University of Arkansas Program in Creative Writing and Translation announced this morning that the novelist and essayist Zadie Smith will appear at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 5. /more/
  • 'Scars: An Anthology' release tonight, features Little Rock authors

    September 3, 2015
    A new book, "Scars: An Anthology," which aims to "examine the range and nuance of experience related to scars of the body," features five writers from Little Rock, including Erin Wood (also the book's editor), Jason Wiest, Phillip Martin, Andrea Zekis and Lea Clyburn. /more/
  • Silver Jews' David Berman reads Frank Stanford

    September 3, 2015
    This year's revival of the legendary Arkansas poet Frank Stanford continues with the release of Third Man Books' "Hidden Water: From the Frank Stanford Archives," the second Stanford collection to arrive in 2015, this one compiling "unpublished poems, drafts, never before seen photos, and correspondences between Stanford, Allen Ginsberg, Pulitzer Prize winning poet Alan Dugan, and more." To promote the book, here's David Berman — the great poet and front man of the now-defunct band Silver Jews — reading an untitled Stanford poem. /more/
  • Michael Cera to write, direct and star in Charles Portis's 'Masters of Atlantis'

    July 17, 2015
    Buried in a news item yesterday about the movie "Lego Batman," The Hollywood Reporter mentioned offhandedly that actor Michael Cera has acquired the rights to "Masters of Atlantis," the brilliant, absurdist cult-farce by Little Rock author Charles Portis. "Cera aims to write the adaptation as not only an acting vehicle but a directing project as well," they report. /more/
  • More »

Comments (11)

Showing 1-11 of 11

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-11 of 11

Add a comment

More by Will Stephenson

  • A Q&A with Peter Guralnick

    On writing biographies, Elvis, Charlie Rich and more.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Ruthie Foster comes to South on Main

    Also, Mumford and Sons at Verizon, 29th Annual Ozark UFO Conference in Eureka Springs, Fantastic Cinema and Craft Beer Festival at Riverdale and Melanne Verveer at the Clinton School.
    • Apr 7, 2016
  • Goodbye to all that (Arkansas edition)

    What I'm trying to say is that I'm quitting the Arkansas Times — this is my last week — and not because I hated it, but because I loved it so much.
    • Apr 6, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Staff Picks: Netflix and Chill, Benji's pasta fresca, Creedence Clearwater Revival and more

    The podcast Design Matters, published by Design Observer, is celebrating its 10th year and they are revisiting some of their best episodes from the last decade. I just finished this week's replay of the interview with the Scottish born illustrator Marion Deuchars. At the end of the wonderful interview, her two young sons are invited into the studio near where they pitch in some of their own thoughts on art and, in particular, drawing in the art books their mother created for children and adults.
    • Aug 28, 2015
  • Guest Mix: Rural War Room

    World wide weird duo Rural War Room (Donavan Suitt & Byron Werner) is celebrating 10 years of broadcasting and production here in Little Rock and abroad. RWR Radio on KABF 88.3 FM (10 p.m. Tuesdays or anytime on their website), features the duo alternating records in an effort to surprise one another.
    • Sep 14, 2015
  • Your new flags of Little Rock

    BRASHER: Hello Arkansans, this is the first piece from us, Brasher and Rowe and we are some dudes who work in downtown Little Rock and we eat lunch and just talk about all the exciting things around here.
    • Sep 18, 2015

Most Shared

  • Labor department director inappropriately expensed out-of-state trips, audit finds

    Jones was "Minority Outreach Coordinator" for Hutchinson's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The governor first named him as policy director before placing him over the labor department instead in Jan. 2015, soon after taking office.
  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Little Rock will next week host a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems led by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Blogroll

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation