Poem for Aretha Franklin when she opens her mouth our world swells like dawn on the pond when the sun licks the water & the jay garbles, the whole quiet thing coming into tune, the gnats, frogs, the dandelion pollen, the pebbles & leaves & the whole world of us sitting at the
Crystal Williams was born in 1970 in Detroit, Michigan. She received her BA from New York University and MFA from Cornell University. Williams is the author of four poetry collections: Detroit as Barn (University of Washington Press, 2014), which was a finalist for the National Poetry Series, the Maine Book Award, and the Cleveland State Open Book Prize; Troubled Tongues (Lotus Press, 2009), winner of the 2009 Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Prize; Lunatic (Michigan State University Press, 2002); and Kin (Michigan State University Press, 2000).
In her review of Troubled Tongues, Alice Fulton writes, “Crystal Williams’s poems are a serious playground, their argot full of mischief and empathy. She writes idioms created from fissures and travesties, the makeshift discourse of survival, a rhetoric evolving under duress. Her poems rage against assumptions that restrict human possibilities and sing the necessities of imaginative space.” In Ai’s review of Williams’s debut collection, she said Williams “riffs language with her saxophone, metaphorical pen and she takes us into her family as if we were family too, back from a long journey, and fills us in on everything we’ve missed—good, bad, and in between.”
In 2010 Williams was appointed the Mary Rogers Field Distinguished University Professor of Creative Writing at DePauw University, and she was appointed to the Oregon Arts Commission two years later. Williams also served as a faculty member at Reed College for eleven years before being appointed the college’s inaugural Dean for Institutional Diversity. She served as associate vice president, chief diversity officer, and professor of English at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. She is the associate provost for diversity and inclusion at Boston University, where she is also a professor of English. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Detroit as Barn (University of Washington Press, 2014)
Troubled Tongues (Lotus Press, 2009)
Lunatic (Michigan State University Press, 2002)
Kin (Michigan State University Press, 2000)