By Suzanne Buzek
Tyrone Williams believes there’s something to be said about creativity blooming in the spring and summer months. It is that time of year when it is hard to look outside and not be inspired to write. Words have always come easily for Williams, a professor in the Department of English. He’s been writing prose and poetry since age 13.
“I attribute my love of writing to my middle school teacher, Ms. Horne, who encouraged us to creatively write as part of our weekly assignments,” he explains. “I started writing short stories, and her praise encouraged me to write more. Then I started writing poetry and a friend of mine and I would trade poems back and forth. That exchange kept me going as a writer and poet as I got older.”
As he developed his skills, Williams began to delve into the more complicated issues that make up modern-day society. He explores history—especially that of African Americans—politics, and, most recently the concept of intellectual property and the ethics and criteria of plagiarism. These issues not only became his foci for writing creatively but also areas of interest for his research and the projects he anticipates publishing within the next year.
“I’m interested in the whole notion of what it means to quote or cite someone in different fields,” says Williams.
One manuscript, “Quotation and Modern Art,” explores different visual artists and the notion of copying and using other artists’ work. His other manuscript, “Hip-Hop and the Public," explores musical artists and the popular concept modern music has adopted: ripping and using other music from an earlier time.
“It’s similar to hip-hop artists taking a track to an old rock ‘n’ roll song or an old R&B song and layering it with other beats,” explains Williams. “It’s funny because I actually like these artists. I like Robert Rauschenberg, who made collages of many photographs; I like the inter-textual connections we make between different works of art. In some ways, it’s like linking the past with the present. It ultimately comes back to the whole question of what do we as a society mean by originality and creativity.”
Williams regularly seizes opportunities to expand his horizons and opportunities to write. He has participated in the Djerassi Resident Artist Program, near Santa Cruz, Calif., two times since his first experience with the Djerassi program in 1999. The program has a competitive application process and selects only a few artists from many disciplines—literature, music and fine arts, to name a few.
“It was so beautiful out there, and it was the summer, so I thought I would just go out there and get inspired to write, but it didn’t really pan out that way the first time,” recalls Williams. “What I realized about myself, at least, is that I needed to go out there with a project, something I’ve already started that I just needed time to work on. The next two times I went out there with projects, and I didn’t have to wait for inspiration.”
Williams particularly enjoys the part of the program in which the artists would share their work. His comfort level has been built via frequent participation in poetry readings—he averages about six a year—and the sharing environment and constructive criticism experience during his time as faculty advisor for Mermaid Tavern, Xavier’s on-again, off-again literary and creative writing club.
Poetry is expressive, sensitive, thoughtful, intuitive, angry, hilarious, minimal and overwhelming all at the same time. On paper, the reader can take away from a poem what he or she pleases, but when poetry is read aloud, transformation can happen.
“It is rare that a poet doesn’t try to engage his or her audience, even if only to contextualize the poems,” says Williams. “It’s neat because I have had people come up to me and say that my poems have changed them when I read them aloud at a reading.”