American poet, publisher, essayist and photographer JONATHAN WILLIAMS was born in Washington, DC (d. 2008). Williams was the founder of The Jargon Society, one of the most influential small presses of the 20th century. Jargon Society published poetry, experimental fiction, photography, and folk art for more than fifty years including many important books by Gay authors like James Broughton, Lou Harrison, Robert Duncan, Marsden Hartley and others.
But its biggest money-maker was the White Trash Cookbook, a manuscript that had been turned down by every other publisher because they thought it might be offensive to, um, white trash.
Book collectors take note. There are some great books Williams published that are treasures to be had by the Gay historian and literary lover. The letters between a young Hartley and Whitman’s lead disciple Horace Traubel are an epiphany, as are the glorious editions of Broughton’s homoerotic poetry published in the early 1970s.
Given these offerings it’s no surprise that Buckminster Fuller once called Williams “our Johnny Appleseed,” Guy Davenport described him as a “kind of polytechnic institute,” and the literary historian Hugh Kenner hailed Jargon as “the Custodian of Snowflakes” and Williams as “the truffle-hound of American poetry.”
Williams died March 16, 2008 in Highlands, NC from pneumonia. He was the last member of the Black Mountain poets to pass away. If you’re interested in Williams’ poetry, in 2005 Copper Canyon Press published what is now considered a “Collected Works” by Williams called Jubilant Thicket: New and Selected Poems.