Full program video: Tyrone Williams, The George Oppen Memorial Lecture: December 6, 2019
Video highlight clips: "Songwriters were, I was convinced, talking to one another...." Tyrone Williams traces his early obsession with popular music songwriters, leading into a reading of Poem 21, "the only one included in Discrete Series," from George Oppen's "lost poems" | Tyrone Williams speaks to Philip Levine's well-known poem "They Feed They Lion" and Levine's use in the title line of Black speech, as one of several poets he reads in counterpoint to George Oppen
The Poetry Center is honored to host Tyrone Williams, presenting this year's annual George Oppen Memorial Lecture, in its 34th iteration since the inaugural talk in 1985. The Oppen Lecture is supported by the Dorothy A. Fowler Trust.
- In times of dire word-thirst due to a malabsorption of History’s artifacts, we turn to Tyrone Williams’s codes & keys to crack the truly ‘alter’ political realms. Master of micro-tonic excavations of symbolic significance, Williams pares down the logical fripperies of Civilizations’ intentionalities. Here, neither the world-out-there nor the world-in-here predominate, but rather an intermundia of “belaborated” rites & rituals sound out some of the rarest and most provocative poetry of our times. —Rodrigo Toscano
Tyrone Williams was born in Detroit, Michigan and earned his BA, MA, and PhD at Wayne State University. He is the author of a number of chapbooks—including Convalescence (1987); Futures, Elections (2004); Musique Noir (2006); and Pink Tie (2011), among others—and his six books of poetry include c.c. (2002), On Spec (2008), The Hero Project of the Century (2009), Adventures of Pi (2011), Howell (2011), and As Iz (2018). A limited-edition art project, Trump l’oeil, was published by Hostile Books in 2017.
Williams’s work draws on a variety of sources to challenge and investigate language, history, and race. In a 2011 interview with the Volta, Williams noted, “I don’t ‘revere’ the English language but I use it and, on occasion, abuse it.” And of his interest in grammar and linguistics, he stated: “every grammatical marker is purposeful…every torque of the language renders ‘meaning’ problematic—which seems to me the precise ‘condition’ of African-American existence in particular and ‘American’ life in general.”
He and Jeanne Heuving edited the anthology, Inciting Poetics (2019), and Williams is the editor of African American Literature: Revised Edition (2008). He teaches literature and theory at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. More at his website, Heretofore.
Featured audio, George Oppen at The Poetry Center: