Crystal Williams Profile

Posted: February 4, 2011 by fsucenterforcreativewriting in Poetry, Profile

Crystal Williams is a bold poet. She tells it like it is, and her truth is hot. Williams is author of three collections of poetry, most recently, Troubled Tongues, winner of the 2009 Long Madgett Poetry Award and finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Her other collections of poetry include, Lunatic (Michigan State University Press, 2002) and Kin (Michigan University Press, 2000).

When reading Crystal Williams’ poetry, one quickly finds a poet who is unwilling to skirt around taboo issues. If one were only given two words in which to describe Crystal William’s poetry, the most appropriate would be, “raw truth.” The poet gives truth: the truth about America and its culture, the truth about struggle in identity, the truth about death. Her poetry is not all deep and dark; however, as the poet strikes a balance between the weight in reality and the release in humor.

A breaking down of language, a kind of jazz, a dance with the ordinary moments and political discourse, Crystal Williams is both a poet’s poet and a people’s poet. Williams is a native of Detroit, Michigan, and currently lives in Portland, Oregon where she teaches at Reed College. Yet, her poetry does not stay in contained in these single landscapes, for example in her poem, “On Cops and Color,” the poet moves from Detroit to Ohio to DC to New York. This poem is in her second collection, Lunatic, and in it we move and across the board in time from the late 80’s to the late 90’s. The poet explores racial identity in each section of the poem, and it does not end there—the rest of the collection moves through southern plantations, 911 rubble, and gang deaths in L.A.

Her inspiration of America and prose experiences in America can be found on her blog,  in which she travels the United States in 2010 while on sabbatical. She gives readers what she calls ramble and roam. We see a different side of the poet here: the poet as person. As Starbucks patron in many posts, as inspired by Alicia Keys and Maya Angelo in post #11, when she quotes one woman quoting the other when Alicia Keys speaks of Angelo, “She’d heard Maya Angelou say that you can’t go through life with two catcher’s mitts on your hands. You can’t always be receiving. You have to have one hand free so you can throw stuff back out into the world.” And Williams does throw back into the world. We also see Williams as listmaker, in the post: “Travel, Travel, and Stuff I’ve Learned Along the Way,” where William’s humor comes out. An example: “ 1.) It’s probably not a good idea to have your hair cut in an airport hair salon.” And 6.) Doh. When a good looking man in a bar asks if he can buy you a drink, say “Yes,” and “Thank you.” I just found out that that works nicely. Who knew.”

Sassy and inspiring, Crystal Williams is not a writer to miss. Currently, she is at work on a fourth manuscript of poems entitled, “Walking the Cemetery: Detroit Poems.”

The Frostburg State University Center for Creative Writing will host a reading by Crystal Williams at Frostburg’s Lyric Theater located at 22 East Main Street on Monday, February 7, at 7:30 p.m.

by Teresa Petro

  1. Excited for the reading! Lunatic is on my MFA reading list this semester 🙂

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