Sherley Anne Williams endeavored to present truth through authentic portrayals of African Americans in her poems. Her poetry uses realism and honesty to convey strong emotions and intimate revelations through characters, mostly female and including Williams, who express frustration with the social and economic situations in which they find themselves. Williams creates a voice for the despair of vulnerable and misunderstood people. She writes of the resourcefulness, determination, and survival of the speakers of her poems as they are tested by poverty, abandonment, and other problems. Freedom is a consistent theme as her characters strive to become independent of whatever controls them and to get around their limitations. Dignity and optimism resonate in Williams’s poems as people attempt to improve, not worsen, their conditions. Williams urges African Americans to recognize the importance of community, both family and neighbors. Her poems expand readers’ awareness of their personal and cultural responsibilities.
Williams’s poetry is often compared to African American music. She discussed musical influences on literary structure, themes, and language in “The Blues Roots of Contemporary Afro-American Poetry” (Massachusetts Review, 1977). Williams uses the blues format to reiterate and rephrase in successive lines of verse the emotional pain people suffer from intolerable circumstances. She addresses concerns tormenting many African...
(The entire section is 1278 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Sherley Anne Williams Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!