Episode 032: Crystal Williams

Note: due to a scheduling problem, this interview and two others are text-only. Audio podcasts will return in the fall.

Crystal Williams’ third collection of poems, Troubled Tongues, was chosen by Marilyn Nelson for the 2009 Long Madgett Poetry Award and was short-listed for the Idaho Prize. It is forthcoming in January 2009. Her poetry appears in the American Poetry Review, 5AM, Callaloo, Court Green, Luna, Fourth River, The Indiana Review, and in the anthologies American Poetry: The Next Generation, Poetry Nation, Sweet Jesus, and Beyond the Frontier, among others. Raised in Detroit, Michigan and Madrid, Spain, she is currently working on two plays and a collection of essays. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from New York University and a Master of Fine Arts from Cornell. Williams is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and lives with her adopted standard poodle Oliver. They spend as much time as they can in Chicago, Illinois, roaming the lake front and keeping tabs on the stars. Williams read at Cornell's Goldwin Smith Hall on April 19, 2009, and answered J. Robert Lennon's questions via email the previous week.

Though your second book came close on the heels of the first, I see a real transformation between the two--"Lunatic" seems less tentative, more free with the rhythms of natural speech, more comfortable with long lines and snatches of dialogue. It seems as though the poet is allowing herself to be more obscured, to serve as a conduit for the sounds of the world. Do you see it this way?

The short answer is: Yes. I do see it that way. I think what you’re describing is growth and hope that in each of my books growth—artistic, intellectual, spiritual--is evident.

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