An Ear in Bartram's Tree: Selected Poems 1957-1967

By Jonathan Chamberlain Williams

26 ratings - 4.54* vote

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Book details

Paperback, 162 pages
January 17th 1972 by New Directions Publishing Corporation
Original Title
An Ear in Bartram's Tree: Selected Poems 1957-1967
0811202402 (ISBN13: 9780811202404)
Edition Language

Community Reviews

Matthew Mousseau


I do
dig Everything Singing (thinking

as I do:

ah, art
is fro-

zen Zen)

Goethe said: Architecture is frozen music.

* * *

A Vulnerary, for Robert Duncan

one comes to language from afar, the ear
fears for its sound-barriers -

but one 'comes'; the language 'comes' for
The Beckoning Fair One

plant you now, dig you
the plaint stirs winter
earth . . .

air in a hornets' nest
over the water makes a
solid, six-sided music . . .

a few utterly quiet scenes, things
are very far away - 'form
is emptiness'

comely, comely, love trembles

and the sweet-shrub

* * *

Great Gray Green Greasy


put the blocks
to winter?

raising avocados indoors
is, ouch,
hard enough


goosed lizards, leaping . . .

put them peapickin claws
whar they belong,


after while, crocodile . . .

* * *

Finger Exercises

went down to the
to buy a pair of hands, to quote
Robert Creeley

Olson wrote about Marsden Hartley's
hands, how they got,
refusing women's

and yes:
Hands, by
Sherwood Anderson,

hot to grope
blueberry, blacksuited

arma virumque cano! -
plus the law's got a long

we are too much in the hands of
those on whom we lay
no hands

* * *

To Charles Oscar

may there by stiff reeds
for your hands
among the asphodels,

and wind
to move them
over the bronze water
onto paper

and Lethe for us,
with your shattered

* * *

The Flower-Hunter in the Fields, for Agnes Arber

a flame azalea, mayapple, maple, thornapple

a white cloud in the eye
of a white horse

a field of bluets moving
below the black suit
of William Bartram

bluets, or "Quaker Ladies," or some say

bluets and the blue of gentians and
Philadelphia blue laws!

high hills,

stone cold

as October

* * *

Heart-Song Dear to the American People

don't let the sun set on your head! I said
to the golden rod

it stood
in the pine wood

out back
it was black

as a heart

* * *

Dealer's Choice and the Dealer Shuffles, for William Burroughs

I saw the Chattahoochee River get a haircut.
I saw Fidel Castro flow softly towards Apalachicola, Florida.

I saw a bank of red clay integrate with Jesuits.
I saw Bob Jones Bible University used to make baked flamingos.

I saw the Governor of Mississippi join the NAACP.
I saw a black gum tree refuse to leaf and go to jail.

I saw the DAR singing "We Shall Overcome!"
I saw Werner von Braun knitting gray (and brown) socks for the National Guard.

I saw the Motto of Alabama: "IT'S TOO WET TO PLOUGH!"
I saw God tell Adam: "WE DARE DEFEND OUR RIGHTS!"

I saw the City of Albany fried in deep fat.
I saw eight catfish star on Gomorrah TV.

I saw William Blake grow like a virus in the sun.

I saw the South suckin hind titty.
I saw the North suckin hind titty.

I saw a man who saw these too.
And said though strange they were all true.

* * *

Symphony No. 5, in C Sharp Minor


Mahler, from his studio on the 11th floor of the
Hotel Majestic, New York City, hears the cortege of a
fireman moving up Central Park West:

one roll of the drum

one road where the wind storms, where
Cherubim sing birds' songs
with human faces and hold the world
in human hands and
drift on the gold road
where black wheels smash

one roll of the drum


to be a block of flowers
in a wood

to be mindlessly in flower
past understanding

to be shone on

to be there, there
and blessed


one two three
one two three

little birds waltz to and fro
in the piano

at Maiernigg on the

and up the tree:

one two three


one feels
one clematis petal

its circle
is all

glimmer on this pale


Schoenberg: "I should
even have liked to observe
how Mahler
knotted his tie,

and should have found that
more interesting and instructive
than learning how
one of our musical bigwigs composes
on a quote sacred subject

. . . An apostle
who does not glow
preaches heresy."

his tie was knotted
with éclat
the dead run!

* * *

Gardyloo!, A Salutation for Christopher Murray Grieve On the Occasion of His 75th Birthday, August 11, 1967

May Glen Fiddich trickle down the burns
and white roses replace heather!

May Burns, Dunbar, MacDiarmid
trickle in the minds
and climate replace weather!

May your conturbation
rouse the artless Nation!

"May your bottom
never be used
to stretch a Banjo!"

- the latter toast
Chris Grieve gave me in Langholm,
presumably a gist
from the Gaelic-Scots, the original, alas,
now lost . . .

I salute his zest!

* * *

Blue Ball Blues, for Paul Goodman

O, Mr. Chemist, please let me buy
350 pounds of premium Kentucky KY,

cause it's a dry season
for the reason

Anglo-Saxon sex glands
are awry . . .

Arise, arise and come
to Perineum

('the more you come
the more you can'

Let not your sword sleep in your Hand
and we shall smear Petroleum
on England's Groin
& Pleasant Gland!

* * *

That Old Original Phrygian Ball-Buster

Attis is
at it is

- to quote Cybele, a Really Big Earth-Lady (she too go off nut, she make much lamentations-like:

1) to make a totem of pine
out that sweetheard of mine
he cut off the
old pine tree . . .

2) he's a sure nuf gone tomato, he's
a busted valentine . . .

3) Attis-Kit / Attis-Kat -
a green & yaller double-backed beastie
in the form of a monkey
on somebody's back . . .

come on friend,
gimme some skin!

moans the Magna Mater,
croon the Castrate Choir . . .

and redder violets
in a bloody ditch -

ain't it a bitch!

* * *

The Switch Blade (or, John's Other Wife)

men share perceptions (and
their best friends' wives, in lieu of

a perverse tangling of arseholes)

- so, if you don't dig that sound get down together
on the wrestling mat mit your

Mr. Caesar,
Mr. Seizure,
Mr. Man

(every man's woman and every
woman's man, said Suetonius)

yes, but:

Will Andrew Jones Join
the Androgynes?

play it as cool as you can, a pragmatic man said -

there is no end

to desire

* * *

Five Far-Fetched Literary Rambles

Noah (Webster) Counts the Animalcules Two-by-Two:
ab cd EF gh iJ KL mn OP qr st uv WX yz

Who, According to Coleridge, is the "Fair, Soft-Flowering Daughter of Fright"?

What is the First Really Miltonic Adjective?

An Aspect of a Well-Hung Wallpaper in a Pre-Regency Gentile Drawing-Room:

Who said, Great Things Are Done When Sprouts & Mountains Meet?

* * *

Rainer Maria Gerhardt

'an end, un-

all of a sudden

for himself'

* * *

Mina Loy

'each sin, severally
sinned, or to be
since the Fall' -

the pen was in
the glands of Bartholin

* * *

Erik Satie

sat at tea

* * *

Jack Spicer

there was his poem
about the ugly gardener's son,
Crotchety Priapus,

weary in the weeds without the hots
for anyone

let's hope Death
has a big one
for Jack

* * *

An Objectivist's Anthology:

1. Lou-
2. is

3. Zu-
4. kof-
5. sky

* * *

The Hermit Cackleberry Brown, On Human Vanity:

caint call your name
but your face is easy

come sit

now some folks figure theyre
cowflop they

not a bit

just good to hold the world together
like hooved up ground

thats what


This fantastic book contains Williams most exciting poems-- those composed with the greatest proximity to Black Mountain College.


It's my LUCK to be living in Philadelphia, where Bartram's Garden actually exists, and of course Bartram's TREE! The flower on the cover is sublime, and one August (that's when the tree's in bloom) I sat beneath the tree to read this book from cover to cover. COME TO PHILADELPHIA in August and read this book with me, let's make a habit of it! Let's make a tradition of it! Let's LOVE this magnificent poetry together why don't we!?

With Love,


omg lol

Paul Secor

Reread some of the poems recently and raised up my rating.

As the years pass me by, my appreciation of Jonathan Williams' poetry increases.

Greg Bem

A book of small illuminations undoubtedly disconnected but grandiose and lovely in their own appropriate way.