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John Hartley Williams Biography

(1942– ), Hidden Identities, Bright River Yonder, Cornerless People, Double

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Patrick White (Patrick Victor Martindale White) Biography to David Wojahn Biography

British poet, born in Cheshire, educated at the universities of Nottingham and London. He taught English at universities in France, Yugoslavia, and Cameroon before becoming a lecturer in Modern English at the Free University of Berlin in 1976. In Hidden Identities (1982), his first collection of poetry, the imaginative and emotional seriousness of much of the verse is inseparable from his quirkily surreal wit. His long poem ‘Ephraim Destiny's Perfectly Utter Darkness’ appeared in Bright River Yonder (1987), a long sequence whose setting is drawn from presentations of the nineteenth-century American frontier in the cinema and popular literature. The book exemplifies the practice Williams has termed ‘fiction by ellipsis’, a firm thematic continuity emerging from its apparently disjunctive succession of dramatic monologues, songs, and occasional lyrical interludes. His volumes of poetry Cornerless People (1990) and Double (1994) contain work which entertainingly experiments with the conventions of characterization.

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