By Ginny Masullo
Johnathon Williams poet, essayist and founding editor of the online poetry magazine Linebreak, came by his propensity for poetry honestly. That is, by way of his early obsession with horror movies. Little did he know that scary movies might lead him into the world of poetry. Don’t be misled. Williams has a remarkably refined understanding of the horror genre. While one might say this aesthetic informs his poetry, his writing in no way resembles the sometimes-gratuitous horror genre. His poetry is finely tuned and controlled, yet reaches beyond comfort.
Over coffee at the University of Arkansas where he works in web design and just finished his MFA in creative writing, Williams discussed the “dark animating spirit in all great works of art.”
He quoted Federico Lorca’s famous lecture “Play and Theory of the Duende.” According to Christopher Maurer, editor of “In Search of Duende,” four elements can be isolated in Lorca’s vision of duende: irrationality, earthiness, a heightened awareness of death, and a dash of the diabolical.” These elements fit Williams’ sensibilities.
In Williams’ essay, “A Taste for Flesh,” Williams explains that America has a problem with death and zombies have a problem with life. He concludes his well wrought views with “… Zombie movies tell the truth, for only there do the departed keep company with the living with the same voracity as they do in a grieving mind. Though we place them in pine boxes and bless them with murmured psalms, the dead do not die. And while it may not be flesh, they always come to demand their due.”
Like the narrator in his poem, Williams does not sleep much. Besides raising two daughters with his wife, working full-time and finishing his MFA, Williams and Ash Bowen started the online magazine Linebreak (linebreak.org).
That the respected Poets and Writer’s Magazine, in their May issue, reviewed Linebreak along with the Alaska Quarterly and the Paris Review is a testimonial to their success. The free online journal is updated weekly. Contributors include Bob Hicock, D.A. Powell and A.E. Stallings.
Williams’ poetry has appeared in Best New Poets 2009, the Pebble Lake Review and Unsplendid. He’ll be reading for the Ozark Poets & Writers Collective at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street. His reading will be preceded and followed by an open mic.