Books by JL Williams include Condition of Fire (Shearsman, 2011), Locust and Marlin (Shearsman, 2014), Our Real Red Selves (Vagabond Poets, 2015) and House of the Tragic Poet (If A Leaf Falls Press, 2016). A collection exploring the fine line between abundance and apocalypse, After Economy, was published by Shearsman Books in May 2017. She is interested in expanding dialogues through writing across languages, perspectives and cultures and in multimodal and cross-form work, visual art, dance, opera and theatre.
Published widely in journals, her poetry has been translated into numerous languages. She has read at international literature festivals and venues in the UK, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Turkey, Cyprus, Canada, Hungary, Romania, Montenegro and the US. She wrote the libretto for a new opera, Snow, was Writer-in-Residence for the British Art Show 8 in Edinburgh and plays in the poetry and music band Hail of Bright Stones (https://hailofbrightstones.com/).
100th Click Clack! Thursday 28th February, Henry’s Cellar Bar, 7.30pm Hail of Bright Stones again, perhaps experimenting with a little noisy improv… come help us celebrate one of Edinburgh’s great underground music + nights.
Seeing the 2018 successes of poets I have met including Vahni Capildeo, Richard Scott and Sophie Collins, both published by Faber this past year, Lila Matsumoto whose Urn & Drum came out with Shearsman, Iain Morrison’s I’m a Pretty Circler and Samantha Walton’s Self Heal, Alice Tarbuck’s Grid from Sad Press, Annie Rutherford’s translation of Nora Gomringer’s Hydra’s Heads, and so many more, all inspire and delight and reassure that poetry is very much a living, breathing, thumping beast coming over and over and over the horizon with each new day.
I loved going to the Evenings of Ratkovic Festival in Montenegro where I met many amazing poets including the Peru-born, Barcelona-based Nilton Santiago who has managed not only to translate a number of my poems but even to get them published in the stunning Vallejo & Co. journal already – a very special Christmas gift!
It was also a dream come true to have a poem I had worked on bringing into English with the Hungarian poet Ferenc L. Hyross published in Modern Poetry in Translation (read it here) and to be part of a beautiful flash collection called Women on the Road, published by Fruitmarket Gallery.
It meant a lot to me to get my poem ‘The Beautiful’ published in The Interpreter’s House, both because that journal is looking so fabulous in its new online embodiment but also because it speaks to my feelings about how sad I have been looking across the water at my country these days, how we have to hang on to our mothers – whoever and whatever they may be, and our beliefs and our creativity, however bad it gets.
I was very honoured to be included with such fine poets in Julie Johnstone’s Breath box. I admire Julie and her work with Essence Press so much, and it was a dream come true to embark on this collaboration and to see it come to life at StAnza 2018. It was also a joy there to meet and be interviewed by the Suzannah V. Evans – brilliant writer herself, who put together this podcast as a result of our conversation.
I have been privileged to run a number of workshops this year, from one in collaboration with MUSA at StAnza, to a workshop at Cooper Gallery in Dundee – a poetry workhsop with no paper and no pens!, as well as a new series of Open Book reading and writing workshops at the Fruitmarket Gallery. I learn so much from working with other writers in this way. Beginning my mentoring work with this year’s brilliant Clydebuilt poets has also been a major highlight, and will continue into 2019 with more exchanges of poetic thought, challenge and wonder.
Sometimes when the day job is stressful it can feel as if I am not working hard enough on my writing, but going over this list it seems that 2018 was filled with new ideas and new words coming together in ways that open to light and life. That’s a good thought. Here’s to less plastic and more goodness for everyone in 2019!
It has been a strange holiday time as my partner came down with a severe case of shingles which meant we spent a lot of time in various hospitals and in deep recovery mode in bed with the electric blanket blasting, however it has made me reflect on how lucky we have been/are for our health generally and to have the support of friends and family in our lives.
And suddenly it is 2019! The future! Still no flying cars and way too much plastic/environmental disaster and torture/slaughter of animals and people going on for my taste, but we’re always evolving.
Some of my new year’s resolutions include the traditional: saving more, yoga more, make lunch more, but also I am really going to try to think carefully about what I am buying/using and why, whether the products I purchase are ethical and reach me in an environmentally-friendly way (packaging, posting, etc) and to think about the supply chains I am supporting when I spend money, and to consider our day-to-day actions and impact and how we can reduce and improve. I was SO pleased to come across Edinburgh’s first zero waste grocery store – The Eco Larder – just before the holidays and hope to make this a regular part of how we buy food and household products.
I did not get as much writing done over the holidays as I had hoped as I think the stress of illness took a lot of my creative energy, but it still feels like a good time to focus on what joys this past year brought and what goals I will try to achieve in the coming year, including editing masses of pre-existing writing, writing new poems and continuing to send work out, with good wishes and little doves of hope! (This was getting long so I thought I’d make a part 2…)
it seems like ages ago now but just a few weeks ago i was on a mountaintop in the north of Montenegro! (where is that, one person asked me… i know, i know, i had to look it up). well it is here, just start at Rome, cross Italy and drift across the Adriatic Sea
what a remarkably beautiful country!
i flew into Dubrovnik, and was picked up to my surprise by the glamorous Montenegrin poet Tanja Bakić who had kindly come all the way from her home in the capital of Montenegro, Podgorica to meet me
the six-hour drive to Bijelo Polje, where the Evenings of Ratkovic Poetry Festival would be taking place, was a dream of white canyons laced by glittering turquoise rivers, steep emerald mountain slopes, oncoming cars and motorcycles racing round tight bends at high speed
so many brilliant poets, and the mountains, the haystacks, the rivers, the mountains!!!
cheapest wine and cigarettes since, last time you could smoke inside since, waiters in white shirts black trousers, the town square, the fountains, the men in the river, the wild cats, the rottweiler in the cage, the chicken by the river, the cow with the bell round her neck on top of the mountain in the meadow of wildflowers, the muddy path, the Turkish coffee, the almonds and walnuts, the REAL HAYSTACKS, the heat, the frightening cemetery, the ancient churches, the peeling frescoes, the orthodox boy holding the medieval bible that no one could look at but believers, the library on the mountaintop, the cabbage salad, the old-fashioned music, the wedding in the hotel, the mountains, the mountains
when I left I had a couple of nights in Dubrovnik before flying home, unbelievable white polished city out of time and dreams and the island of Lokrum with its rocky beaches trawled by peacocks, crumbling monastery, white paths to paradise, giant aloe and curse and memory and hunger and thunder over sea
run little heart up the straightest path
Many thanks to the Edwin Morgan Trust and the Society of Authors whose support helped to make this trip possible.
sunny sunny afternoon in October and he comes in saying ‘it’s so nice and shiny’
i was perusing the website of the lovely Lucy Cash recently and discovered that she seems to have called her blog page ‘notebook’, i love this idea and am going to borrow it, i hope she doesn’t mind
something about thinking of this page as a notebook rather than a blog is so freeing in terms of content and form (esp capitalisation, apparently — what a relief!) and it is my own page so i should be able to use it in the way that best serves creativity and communication my way
yesterday was National Poetry Day, i always feel a little torn (isn’t every day poetry day etc), but hey i won’t complain about celebrations… my very talented friend maddy wrote an NPD post (notebook entry/review/thought smatter) of which you might like to partake… her posts are generally wonderful and she’s awfully good on fashion too
also her mum, the marvellous Robyn Marsack, has launched her own website, isn’t it gorgeous?
so much to see and read and love and share and frill and scent and dance and do!