Jonathan Williams

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Herbert Leibowitz

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 175

Williams's versatility and his labors at unearthing a kind of populist poetry in his backyard are on display in ["Blues & Roots/Rue & Bluets" and "A Garland for the Appalachians"]. They contribute to an unusual view of Appalachia. "Blues & Roots/Rue & Bluets" is a sourcebook … of native forms, rhythms, sights and sounds. Williams listens to and transcribes the homespun sayings, the "vernal, verbal gift," of his mountain neighbors. One is startled by their unforced humor, self-delighting inventiveness, and lack of guile. Take "Aunt Creasy, On Work": "shucks / I make the livin / uncle / just makes the livin / worthwhile." Or "The Hermit Cackleberry Brown, On Human Vanity":

                 caint call your name
                 but your face is easy
                 come sit
                 now some folks figure they're
                 cowflop they
                 not a bit
                 just good to hold the world together
                 like hooved up ground
                 that's what

Dr. Johnson couldn't deliver a moral judgment with more confident finality. (pp. 56, 58)

Herbert Leibowitz, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1971 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 21, 1971.

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