JL Williams on the Origins of Her Poetry

When she was growing up in rural New Jersey, JL Williams wrote a play about pirates. Today, Williams is best known as a poet, but she has continued to sail across various genres, including visual arts, dance, theatre, and, most recently, opera. Although Williams may have put pirates long behind her, associations with the sea, and the dramatic portrayal of a vividly realised world, still run deep in her poetry, as Suzannah V. Evans discovered when she caught up with her at StAnza poetry festival in 2018.

Lately I've been finding a lot of comfort in the idea of long spaces of time, and that in a way our lives are these brief flashes, but that's part of what makes them so brilliant and so special
Bird and Creel. Photo credit: Suzannah V. Evans.

They began their conversation with the origins of Williams’s recent project, to compose the libretto for an operatic version of Snow White. While writing for opera may have been a new departure, as she looks frankly back at her childhood Williams reveals how her early experiences of theatre and the stage continue to inform her poetry and writing on the page. They also discuss sound and silence, animals and veganism, and how time might be represented in art.

JL Williams reads three of her poems at the end: ‘Water What Sounds’, ‘Georgian Gallery’, and ‘Antelope’.

About the Interviewer

Suzannah V. Evans is a poet, editor, and critic. Her writing has appeared in the TLS, The London Magazine, Eborakon, The North, Coast to Coast to Coast, Time Present, New Welsh Review, and elsewhere. She is Reviews Editor for The Compass and an AHRC Northern Bridge doctoral student at Durham University, where she runs the T. S. Eliot reading group and The Poetry Podcast.

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