By Harry Ransom Center
Poet, translator, and editor Miller Williams (1930–2015) is known for writing poetry in plainspoken language that captured meaning in everyday experiences. The Ransom Center recently acquired his archive, which documents the career and writings of this influential American poet.
As a publisher, editor, and critic, Williams mentored many rising talents, including poet Billy Collins, and his archive is filled with correspondence from such literary figures as Collins, John Ciardi, Charles Bukowski, Robert Lowell, Flannery O’Connor, and Richard Yates. Williams worked closely with former President Jimmy Carter on Carter’s 1995 book Always a Reckoning and Other Poems, and thick files of correspondence and drafts related to the book can be found in the archive.
Also included are letters from former President Bill Clinton, who enlisted Williams to write and read a poem for his second inauguration in 1997. Following the inauguration, Clinton sent a letter of thanks to Williams with the handwritten postscript: “I loved the poem and so did most everyone else—you did yourself and Arkansas proud.” Williams occasionally shared the stage with his daughter, singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, reading his poems between her songs, and the title of her most recent album, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, comes from her father’s poem “Compassion.” In his 2006 book Making a Poem: Some Thoughts about Poetry and the People Who Write It, Williams notes that a poem “must have the power to make us respond, to make us more alive.” This sentiment connecting poetry to life resonates throughout his work and his archive—in the many files and drafts of his own writings, and in the work he did to publish, translate, hare, and bring life to the works of others.
Other acquisitions include:
- The papers of Ben Bradlee, former editor of The Washington Post. The archive, which had been placed on deposit at the Ransom Center in 2012, was recently donated by Bradlee’s estate
- One of the earliest English works on pediatrics, John Jones’s The Arte and Science of preserving Bodie and Soule in Healthe, Wisedom, and Catholike Religion: Phisically, Philosophically, and Divinely (London: Henrie Bynneman, 1579), which offers insights into Elizabethan conceptions of medicine, child raising, diet, and health. Jones contextualizes his work with references to Galen, Plato, Aristotle, Pliny, Hippocrates, and other classical authors and works, making it an appropriate addition to the Ransom Center’s Pforzheimer library of early English literature.
- Substantial additions to the archives of Julian Barnes, J. M. Coetzee, Hilary Masters, Doris Lessing, Penelope Lively, David Mamet, and the London Review of Books, among others.
- Several important additions to the photography collections, including a diptych by Nathan Lyons, a photomontage by Keith Smith, a portfolio by Robert Heinecken, a photo silkscreen by Betty Hahn, a unique five-print sequence by Ralph Eugene Meatyard, a critical reinterpretation of early modern landscape photographs by Penelope Umbrico, prints from the series Ground: Killed Negatives from the Farm Security Administration by Bill McDowell, a gift of 37 works by Carl Chiarenza, and The Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments (Glasgow, Edinburgh, London: William Mackenzie, 1862–1863) produced by Francis Frith with 57 of his albumen prints featuring views of the Holy Land
Read about the Ransom Center’s acquisition of the Miller Williams archive here.
Learn more about the donation of Ben Bradlee’s archive to the Ransom Center and view photos from the collection here.
Finding aid for Doris Lessing’s archive found here.
Finding aid for Julian Barnes’s archive found here.
Finding aid for J.M Coetzee’s archive found here.
Finding aid for Hilary Master’s archive found here.
Finding aid for Penelope Lively’s archive found here.
Finding aid for David Mamet’s archive found here.