The Collected Poems of Tennessee Williams

Front Cover
New Directions Publishing, 2007 - Poetry - 304 pages
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Few writers achieve success in more than one genre, and yet if Tennessee Williams had never written a single play he would still be known as a distinguished poet. The excitement, compassion, lyricism, and humor that epitomize his writing for the theater are all present in his poetry. It was as a young poet that Williams first came to the attention of New Directions' founder James Laughlin, who initially presented some of Williams' verse in the New Directions anthology Five Young American Poets 1944 (before he had any reputation as a playwright), and later published the individual volumes of Williams's poetry, In the Winter of Cities (1956, revised in 1964) and Androgyne, Mon Amour (1977). In this definitive edition, all of the playwright's collected and uncollected published poems (along with substantial variants), including poems from the plays, have been assembled, accompanied by explanatory notes and an introduction by Tennessee Williams scholars David Roessel and Nicholas Moschovakis. The CD included with this paperbook edition features Tennessee Williams reading, in his delightful and mesmerizing Mississippi voice, several of the whimsical folk poems he called his "Blue Mountain Ballads," poems dedicated to Carson McCullers and to his longtime companion Frank Merlo, as well as his long early poem, "The Summer Belvedere."
 

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User Review  - RhydTybyans - LibraryThing

Much of his poetry fails to impress me but there are a few poems which I rate very highly. Without exception, these are poems which I first heard as readings by Williams himself on a long-playing ... Read full review

Contents

Uncollected and Posthumously Published Poems
141
Verse from Fiction Films and Plays
167
Poems Published under the name
175
Explanatory Notes and Publication History
219
Index of Titles and First Lines
299
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About the author (2007)

After O'Neill, Williams is perhaps the best dramatist the United States has yet produced. Born in his grandfather's rectory in Columbus, Mississippi, Williams and his family later moved to St. Louis. There Williams endured many bad years caused by the abuse of his father and his own anguish over his introverted sister, who was later permanently institutionalized. Williams attended the University of Missouri, and, after time out to clerk for a shoe company and for his own mental breakdown, also attended Washington University of St. Louis and the University of Iowa, from which he graduated in 1938. Williams began to write plays in 1935. During 1943 he spent six months as a contract screenwriter for MGM but produced only one script, The Gentleman Caller. When MGM rejected it, Williams turned it into his first major success, The Glass Menagerie (1945). In this intensely autobiographical play, Williams dramatizes the story of Amanda, who dreams of restoring her lost past by finding a gentleman caller for her crippled daughter, and of Amanda's son Tom, who longs to escape from the responsibility of supporting his mother and sister. After The Glass Menagerie,Williams wrote his masterpiece, A Streetcar Named Desire, (1947), along with a steady stream of other plays, among them such major works as Summer and Smoke(1948), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1954), and Suddenly Last Summer (1958). His plays celebrate the "fugitive kind," the sensitive outcasts whose outsider status allows them to perceive the horror of the world and who often give additional witness to that horror by becoming its victims. Stephen S. Stanton has summed up Williams's "virtues and strengths" as "a genius for portraiture, particularly of women, a sensitive ear for dialogue and the rhythms of natural speech, a comic talent often manifesting itself in "black comedy,' and a genuine theatrical flair exhibited in telling stage effects attained through lighting, costume, music, and movements." After The Night of the Iguana (1961), Williams continued to write profusely---and constantly to revise his work---but it became more difficult to get productions of his plays and, if they were produced, to win critical or popular acclaim for them. Williams won the Pulitzer Prize for drama for A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for these two and for The Glass Menagerie and The Night of the Iguana.

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