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Poetics Plus Presents: Poet Tyrone Williams

Tyrone Williams read here for Just Buffalo less than a year ago, yet there is such a buzz surrounding his work that the UB Poetics Program decided to invite him back. Williams has been writing poetry from his post as an English professor at Xavier in Cincinnati for nearly thirty years, but it wasn’t until 2002 that he published his first full-length collection of poems, c.c., with Krupskaya. Word of his challenging, provocative, experimental work has been vibrating throughout the national poetry community ever since. Omnidawn published his second collection, On Spec, last year and he has a third collection due out soon from Lyn Hejinian’s Atelos.

Tyrone Williams

Williams’ poetry takes formal cues from a wide range of cultural productions—sampling, collage, web searches, sonnets, to name a few—and uses these to explore all manner of information. He often deconstructs the language of history, racial politics, myth, and popular culture by breaking down words and phrases to the atomic and even the subatomic levels in order to get to the most fundamental sound the words can make. Once there, the words fragment and dissolve, forming in the process new and surprising connections.

For instance, this recent short poem ostensibly retells a familiar story from the Bible—the moment before Christ’s arrest in the garden of Gethsemane. As one reads through it, however, the slurring, fragmented, punning language allows something else to bubble slowly up to the surface, that something being the more modern parable of Middle Eastern geopolitics:

The Gazarene

He kneels still, statu-

esque in Gethsemane, E-

gypt passing to, fro’,

m, between him, us—

odorous aroma, o-

lives not pressed, not oil.

Tyrone Williams reads at 8pm on Friday, January 23, at Rust Belt Books (202 Allen Street). The event is free.

michael kelleher

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