Take Nothing for Your Journey by Michael E. Williams
In Take Nothing for Your Journey, with language both bright and umbral, Michael Williams, breathes imagination, blows it like wind across the threshold of words and dream and story. He conjures sacred spaces and crossroads, where “lightning splinters fall like footsteps,” and the great secrets and small secrets all become a part of the mystical body human witness. A lovely chapbook.
–Darnell Arnoult, author of Galaxie Wagon: Poems.
Michael Williams’ Take Nothing for Your Journey borrows its title from Jesus’s instructions to his disciples in the New Testament gospels, focusing on the efficacy of faith and the provisional nature of human foresight, but the phrase has also found its way into gospel and spiritual songs that focus more on the ultimate value of the spiritual quest – “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.” Both readings are appropriate for this marvelous collection of poems that powerfully explore human history, culture, spirituality, language and memory. Linguistically, Williams skews toward the ancient energy of repetition, echo, chant – the preponderant alliteration of the title poem, the anaphora skillfully embedded in “Sarah’s Bath,” and the incremental power of the refrain in “Voices from Unseen Rooms.” The collection is bookended by poems of journeying into and through darkness: “we took darkness as our discipline,” the introductory poem ruefully avers, while the concluding poem, “The Circuit Rider,” strongly reminiscent to me of Robert Penn Warren, focuses on “The union of the rider / and the night.” This searching, questing sequence of poems, rooted in the Cumberland Plateau of middle Tennessee, proves the lesson inherent in Theodore Roethke’s great poem: “In a dark time, the eye begins to see.”
Take Nothing for Your Journey
by Michael E. Williams
Michael E. Williams was born in Kentucky, grew up in Tennessee, and has been writing and publishing for over four decades. His poetry has appeared in The Southern Poetry Review, Appalachian Heritage, Southern Humanities Review, Cold Mountain Review, Still, The Pikeville Review, and other journals. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.