ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

A journal for poetry, criticism, reviews, stories and essays published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


"A Pure River" by John Williams (The Last Automat Press (, 2010. Review by Ricardo Nirenberg.


John Williams book cover

You can find four poems by John Sibley Williams published this past spring in Offcourse, Issue #41, of which two are part of this chapbook, the poet’s first.  Those four poems show a spirit both moved and disturbed by the American post-industrial landscape.  The present collection confirms that impression, and often succeeds in capturing the sense of hopelessness we feel before certain typical American artifacts.  This, from “Black and White”, is about something I often felt, but never expressed so well:

Later, the tin and dust motel
showed some black and white cowboy film
and I wondered if this is how the soul moves.
Indifferent to the vast colors, beauties,
rattlers and hungers and savageries,
a sole rider kept to his purpose
as if one with everything he failed to see,
as if he did not need to see
and simply was.

These precisely crafted poems are landscapes across the U.S., landscapes of the earth and the mind, where the horizon is crisscrossed between dream and wakefulness with wisely varied results.  Underneath, the seed, the implement buried in the ground; above, the high-voltage lines and daylight stars.  And in between, a fascinating poetic voice guiding us through the wreck.


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