John Hartley Williams

John Hartley Williams died on 3 May. His last collection, The Golden Age of Smoking, was published in April.

Poem: ‘I Inspect the Storm’

John Hartley Williams, 22 May 2014

Is that geezer in a suit really a weatherman? He’s dry as a dead tooth and shiny. The prince rides a boat down the lane. Grab his pearls of vapour. Ask him what he does when his bushes rage and bending firs threaten his roof.

No, don’t bother. Clouds have engulfed the earth. Wind tears branches off trees. Light has been removed and I’m alone on a hilltop with flashes of...

Poem: ‘My Way’

John Hartley Williams, 3 March 2011

I was delighted to be taken out and shot. It made my day.

The following week I was savagely attacked by a gang of what would have been ruffians, but for my welcoming courtesies. They beat me up and left politely. I was charmed. On Friday I was exquisitely arrested, divinely humiliated at my place of work, forced to acknowledge the theft of a period of time in numerous small increments of...

Poem: ‘The Kirmes Parade’

John Hartley Williams, 8 July 2010

The flies are devoted to this appassionata. The church tower has magnetised the mob. Nothing but jugglers, stilt-walkers, flame-spitters, the thrashed bells’ lingering throb.

Why do they all love that farcical clanging? Christ, we were going to stay in bed today! It feels as if the world is splitting open. They’re putting all its molecules on display.

Witchcraft’s what we...

Poem: ‘Memory of the Night of 4’

John Hartley Williams, 11 March 2010

after Victor Hugo

Two bullets to the head, the child had taken. It was a clean, honest, humble, quiet place. In blessing, above a portrait, hung a palm cross. His aged granny stood there, trembling, lost. In silence, we removed his clothes. His mouth hung open, pale, the eye-life drowned in death. Each arm fell useless from its socket. A boxwood spinning top came spinless from his pocket. You...

Poem: ‘My Real Name is Stanley Kubrick’

John Hartley Williams, 9 April 2009

It was Thursday and the skeletons were out dancing as was their custom in the beetroot and the wintry sun shone down on their fragile paleness and the earth crunched under bony feet.

No film made by actresses with bad breath could rival their dialogues of ‘Boo!’ and ‘Gotcha!’ In this film scripted by a weather forecaster everyone misremembered their lines.

What ought...

Out of the blue

Mark Ford, 10 December 1987

So characteristic of Paul Muldoon’s poetry as to be almost a hallmark is the moment, unnerving and exciting in about equal measures, when his speaker is suddenly revealed to himself as...

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