A lyrical, philosophical, and tender exploration of the various voices of grief, including those of the broken, the healing, the son-become-father, and the dead, Disinheritance acknowledges loss while celebrating the uncertainty of a world in constant revision. From the concrete consequences of each human gesture to soulful interrogations into “this amalgam of real / and fabled light,” these poems inhabit an unsteady betweenness, where ghosts can be more real than the flesh and blood of one’s own hands.
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In John Sibley Williams’ “amalgam of real /and fabled light” one is able to believe again in the lyric poem as beautiful—if difficult—proof of private space. As with families, histories, selves, Sibley writes: “we like to believe / what we make will save us.” Disinheritance contends intimately with loss, to be sure – but it also proposes the poem as a way to remember, to persist, to be oneself, to believe. And to persist when belief may not be possible within the bounds of the shores the seas impose upon us.
—Joan Naviyuk Kane
There is eternal longing in these poems of John Sibley Williams. A yearning for what cannot be understood. A song for what simply is. A distance beyond human measurement. The dead and alive dancing, hurting, and praying at the mouth of what must be the beginning of time. A series of profound losses giving birth to words no different from medicine.
There is a hunger in these poems, one of an empty handed wise man who wants to sing. And sing he does. Here in an amalgam of real / and fabled light, stones ask questions of rivers, as the poet reaches toward the temporary holiness of knowing. These are mostly his words because how else can one speak of what the poem offers, but through the poem. Let these poems sing to you too. Let them hold you in that raw place of hope, let them be ships mooring us to the wild / bottomless sea.
In John Sibley Williams’ moving, somber collection, the power of elegy, reverie, and threnody transcends the disinheritance caused by separation. These compellingly atemporal poems form the locus wherein generations of a family can gather. Here, Williams’ lyric proto-language—elemental, archetypal, primordial—subsumes barriers of time and space. His poems create their own inheritance.
—Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita