Filled with impassioned logic and musicality, John Sibley Williams’ debut collection strives to reconnect language to the things they describe, to control the uncontrollable by redefining the method of approach. In these compact poems, so edged in dark corners and the strenuous songs of beauty and identity, Williams establishes a unique world of contradictions and connections that works to bridge the foreign with the familiar. Moving through art and history, through apocalyptic visions and family, into and back out of the paradox of using language to express languagelessness, Controlled Hallucinations weaves universal themes and images with the basic human reality of touch, word, and what is lost in their translation.
Controlled Hallucinations is available through FutureCycle Press
and at other poetry-loving independent bookstores near you
Paperback: $14.95 Kindle & ePub: $3.99
Using bones, Williams frames a place for mirrored windows and unobstructed doorways where love can come and go as it pleases. The rooms, in this collection, are floor-less, so photographs, clocks, bedroom walls and the staircase defy gravity. There is a haunting quality in this collection which makes you want to walk back into the room that you just left and search for what it is you may have missed.
—Rebecca Schumejda, author of Cadillac Men
John Sibley Williams pares down and removes the extraneous to expose what is absolutely needed: the possibilities. He bravely turns language over on its side and we are left with how things could fit back together in unexpected and elegant turns. The poems in this book repeatedly draw you to a stop with stunning insights, which will hold you long after you have put it down.
—Bonnie Nish, Executive Director Pandora’s Collective Outreach Society
In a universe written in the forms of questions, John Sibley Williams strums his fingers along finely tuned blends of thoughts and images. Enter the intimate conversations of these poems, but do not expect easy ways out. Watch out for the openings that will land you on the map of your own astonishment.
—Daniela Elza, author of milk tooth bane bone and the weight of dew
Hallucinations are not sustainable; they slip beyond logical definition and become lodged in the heart as an irreducible space for language. John Sibley Williams’ poems are open-ended equations without solvable components. His language points at what is encountered or thought or felt. It is co-existent with reality and subject to the same forces that shape, distort, realign, and nurture our worlds.
Bleeding, blindness, the absorption of self into the world, problems of identity and continuity, the incongruity of memory and anticipation create “controlled hallucinations” that probe our existence by suspending the coordinates normally associated with the articulation of one’s reality. Williams’ poetry does not, however, create a hermetic experience. The reader sees the blueprint of his or her own life, left beside the poem as a reality check, a memo not acted on, a haunting fantasy that allows love and alienation to interlock in a seamless and almost surgical gesture in the world. Williams’ poems stand as independent bodies in the world; they are not co-variant with thought or action.
“This simple attempt at light” becomes our grappling with the problem of “how we articulate/ the disappearance of light.” Nakedness, blindness, emotional confusion over personal identity encounter the evidence of extinctions of all kinds. “My heart is a hammer” as we “rush (…) / out/ into the vast, bright/ unanswerable.” Continuity of self is not possible: “the glassed-in heart/ always looking out/ through half-beats” defeats the attempt to lay the “fractured bits of myself (…) carefully around my heart.” “The many/closed worlds of language” allow these sixty-three hallucinations to take the form of stylistically taut, miniature narratives.
There is a great deal for the heart in these poems. These are skillfully composed black and white photographs, painstakingly hand tinted. The modulations of sound are admirable. The crisp intentional layering of physical and spiritual movement and the sustained gesture towards the planet and the cosmos create philosophical wind chimes whose continually shifting tones move the reader away from a personal world into an undefined and haunting space where the poem takes shape. The interaction of tone and ground allows these hallucinations to resonate and then drift off into an undisclosed space where the reader realizes Williams’ vision “To be the ideal obsession/ itself—/ neither dreamer nor the dreamt but/ the dream.”
—Andrea Moorhead, editor of Osiris