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University of Texas at Austin

Miller Williams:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Williams, Miller, 1930-2015
Title: Miller Williams Papers
Dates: 1930-2014
Extent: 30 document boxes (12.5 linear feet), 10 oversize boxes (osb), 4 oversize folders (osf), and 11 electronic files (198 MB)
Abstract: The Miller Williams papers were created between the years 1930 and 2014 and include correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, proofs, diaries, clippings, and printed material belonging to the American poet, translator, editor, and teacher Miller Williams.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-05352
Language: English, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish
Access: Open for research. To request access to electronic files, please email Reference.
Restrictions on Use: Certain restrictions apply to the use of electronic files. Researchers must agree to the Materials Use Policy for Electronic Files before accessing them. Original computer disks and forensic disk images are restricted. Copying electronic files, including screenshots and printouts, is not permitted.

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchase (14-10-013-P)
Processed by: Bob Taylor, 2016 Born digital materials processed, arranged, and described by Chance Adams and Brenna Edwards, 2015-2022.

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Stanley Miller Williams was born in Hoxie, Arkansas, on 8 April 1930, to Ernest B. Williams, a Methodist preacher, and his wife Ann Jeanette Miller Williams. The Williams family's peregrinations led them to move four times before Miller's graduation from high school at Fort Smith in 1947. Despite an early interest in literature and languages he majored in the life sciences in college and earned a BS in biology from Arkansas State College in 1951, the year of his marriage to Lucille Day.
Continuing his studies in the life sciences, Williams received a master's degree in zoology from the University of Arkansas in 1953. Over the next decade he taught biology at the college level as the young family grew to include three children, the eldest of whom was Lucinda, a future singer and songwriter.
Despite his continuing to teach college-level biology Williams' interest in literature—particularly poetry—remained alive, and in 1962 with the memorable assistance of Flannery O'Connor he obtained a position in the writing program of the English Department at Louisiana State University (LSU). The increasing recognition of Miller Williams during this period included an Amy Lowell Fellowship that permitted him to teach in Chile in the 1963/64 school year. The Chilean sojourn led to Williams' acquaintance with Nicanor Parra and to his well-received English translations of Parra's Poems and Antipoems, published in 1967.
The LSU post was followed in 1966 by his joining the faculty of Loyola University in New Orleans. At Loyola he founded and served as first editor of the New Orleans Review. During this period Williams published the first collections of his own poems, as well as co-editing (with John William Corrington) the two volumes of the anthology Southern Writing in the Sixties.
Miller and Lucie Williams divorced in the mid-1960s, and Miller married Rebecca Jordan Hall in 1969. The following year he returned to the University of Arkansas, joining the graduate program in creative writing in the English Department. The decade of the seventies was a busy one for Williams as he spent much of 1970 in Mexico City as a Fulbright professor at the national university, along with publishing two major collections of his own poetry, and editing an anthology, Contemporary Poetry in America. Largely due to Williams' urging, the University of Arkansas added a Master of Fine Arts in Translation program to its catalog in 1978.
Two works produced by Miller Williams in the early 1980s resulted in part from his residence at the American Academy in Rome in the 1976/77 academic year. These were his translations of Sonnets of Giuseppe Belli (1981) and A Roman Collection: Stories, Poems, and Other Good Pieces by the Writing Residents of the American Academy in Rome (1980). Later in the decade, Patterns of Poetry: an Encyclopedia of Forms (1986) appeared and subsequently became a standard reference. One of the four collections of his own poetry Williams published in the 1980s, Living on the Surface (1989), received the Poets' Prize for 1990.
The decade of the 1990s saw Miller Williams publish Adjusting to the Light, Points of Departure, The Ways We Touch, and Some Jazz a While. Continuing public recognition of Williams as a poet was demonstrated by his receiving the John William Corrington Award for Literary Excellence (1994) and the National Arts Award (1997). This acknowledgement was underscored by his being asked by President Bill Clinton to read a poem at his 1997 presidential inauguration. In 1997 Williams stepped down as director of the University of Arkansas Press after nearly two decades of service to that press, which he had helped found in 1980.
Miller Williams published Lives of Kelvin Fletcher, his only work of prose fiction in 2002, not long before his 2003 retirement. Making a Poem: Some Thoughts About Poetry and the People Who Write It, appeared in 2006, followed in 2008 by a collection of poems entitled Time and the Tilting Earth. At a 2009 ceremony in the Arkansas governor's mansion, Miller Williams received the Porter Fund's Lifetime Achievement Award. Living quietly in his final years, Williams died in Fayetteville on 1 January 2015.


"Miller Williams (1930-2015)," The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture []
"Miller Williams, 1930-2015," Poetry Foundation []
"Miller Williams." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2015. Contemporary Authors Online. Web. 28 Sept. 2016.

Scope and Contents

The Miller Williams papers were created between the years 1930 and 2014 and include correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, proofs, diaries, clippings, and printed material belonging to the American poet, translator, editor, and teacher Miller Williams (1930-2015). These personal and vocational papers documenting Williams' career as a writer and educator are in an arrangement created by the Ransom Center. They are organized in five series: I. Literary Activities, 1943-2009; II. Correspondence, 1957-2014; III. Biography and Personal, 1930-2011; IV. Manuscript and Print Material, 1966-2012; and V. John Ciardi papers, 1937-2008.
The Literary Activities series is subdivided into four subseries: A. Original Works by Miller Williams; B. Selections, Collections, and Translations; C. Works Edited by Miller Williams; and D. Business Records. Subseries A. Original Works by Miller Williams (2.5 boxes) contains few manuscripts, most significantly various drafts of his unpublished autobiography, The Lives of Miller Williams. The subseries is dominated by correspondence, a reflection of Williams' need in his capacity as editor of his own poems to have proper copyright and permissions oversight. As a result most of the correspondents in the subseries are publishers (dominated by Louisiana State University Press, Williams' most frequent publisher), journals, literary agents, and (not infrequently) other writers. A significant number of reviews are also present for Williams' collected poems and critical works.
Subseries B. Selections, Collections, and Translations (.5 box) comprises Miller Williams' comments on his poetic sources; found here as well are minor and occasional pieces, translations (in manuscript mostly) of his poems, and notes for his public speaking appearances.
Subseries C. Works Edited by Miller Williams (5 boxes) contains material generally similar to Subseries A in that editorial correspondence represents the bulk of the series. Few manuscripts are present, the principal exception being Williams' typescript in photocopy of his translation of Sonnets of Giuseppe Belli. This manuscript also bears marginal notes by Williams' colleague and fellow poet James Whitehead.
Publishing files of the two collections of poems by Chilean poet Nicanor Parra translated by Williams are present in the subseries. Parra's Emergency Poems is represented by correspondence with New Directions Publishing; the Poems and Antipoems file contains more correspondence and galleys in photocopy.
Also in this subseries is The Genealogy of American Poetry. This extensive collection of American poetry in photocopy, arranged by school (each section being prefaced by brief remarks by Williams) was created for duplication as class handout material in his graduate English classes about the year 2000.
Two substantial anthologies involving Williams as editor are found in the subseries. These are Southern Writing in the Sixties (published by LSU Press in two volumes in 1966 and 1967, and co-edited with John William Corrington) and Contemporary Poetry in America (Random House, 1973). For both these titles extensive correspondence with the individual writers anthologized is present, as well as Williams' correspondence with the publishers.
Subseries D. Business Records (1 box) contains not only Williams' contracts, copyright documents, and permissions for his published works, but also contracts concerning household matters and academic affairs generally. The permissions present here concern translation by Williams of others' work as well as permissions requests for translation of his work into other languages.
The Correspondence series is subdivided into three subseries: A. Correspondence: Publishers and Agents; B. General Correspondence; and C. "Fussing" Correspondence. The first subseries, A. Correspondence: Publishers and Agents (1 box), contains substantial correspondence with E. P. Dutton, LSU Press, Spoken Arts, and literary agent Phoebe Larmore, as well as with other publishers and journals. In many cases the correspondence filed here parallels that found under the various individual titles in Series I.
Subseries B. General Correspondence (6 boxes) is primarily personal correspondence with other poets like John Ciardi, Dan Masterson, John F. Nims, and Dr. John Stone. Other files present here include Jimmy Carter, Simon Dinnerstein, R. S. Gwynn, Tom T. Hall, Samuel Hazo, Jo McDougall, Nicanor Parra, Chelsea Rathburn, Leon Stokesbury, and Lewis Turco. There are also a number of topical files present (including the 1989 American Association of University Presses trip to Soviet Russia, inmates and parolees whom Williams had taught, and his seventieth birthday celebration). The great number of congratulatory notes produced by the 1997 inaugural poem is contained in two large albums.
Subseries C. "Fussing" Correspondence (.5 box) is a collection of Miller Williams' correspondence—maintained by him with this title—united by the theme of personal confrontation. The personal and professional letters document his efforts to voice his dissatisfaction with various people and/or organizations. Examples such as legal representation against a musical instrument repairman for improper work on the guitar of daughter Lucinda, or a personal letter to the Chrysler Corporation complaining about defects in a new 1969 Plymouth station wagon. Other topics include complaints about unresponsive sales people and Loyola University's threatened withdrawal of financial support for the New Orleans Review.
Series III. Biography and Personal (4.5 boxes) comprises three subseries. A. Biography contains articles, clippings, reviews, publicity materials, theses, and term papers devoted to Miller Williams and his work. Much of this material is contained in eight albums. Subseries B. Honors and Recognition embraces correspondence, clippings, and related materials devoted to the growing appreciation of Williams as writer, translator, and educator. Subseries C. Personal Papers contains a significant group of materials illuminating Williams' relationship with President Jimmy Carter in the period the former president was working on his own poetry for the collection ultimately entitled Always a Reckoning. Also found in these papers is correspondence, photographs, and printed matter relating to songwriter and singer Tom T. Hall, who had first introduced Williams to Jimmy Carter.
Series IV. Manuscript and Print Material (4 boxes) houses a number of literary manuscripts, including several by friends and colleagues of Williams, such as Samuel Hazo, John Stone, Lewis Turco, and James Whitehead. The Whitehead item is an undated twenty-page handwritten draft entitled About Miller Williams.
Among the printed matter in the series are a number of works by the artist Meo Carbone and articles and press releases by Williams' friend George Haley. Other print items include a group of periodicals and monographs containing material about Williams, as well as a file of newspaper issues with articles on the threatened 1998 closing of the University of Arkansas Press.
Series V. John Ciardi Papers (5.5 boxes) represents material made available to Miller Williams after he was named Ciardi's literary executor in 1986. It is arranged in five subseries: A. Works; B. Works-related Records; C. Biographical Material and D. Correspondence; and E. Ciardi in Print. From this cache Williams saw Echoes, Mummy Took Cooking Lessons, and Saipan through to publication. For the latter work the two original journals Ciardi kept as an air force sergeant in the U.S. and on Saipan in the final stages of World War II are present.
Two Italian quaderni with extensive academic notes written with fountain pen in a small neat hand probably date from the late 1930 to early 1940s. Also present are two steno pads. One of these, dating from the 1950s to the early 1960s, contains a few addresses and miscellaneous notes in ball point pen; a short story draft in the first person, also in ball point, is found in a second pad and probably originated the same period.
Miller Williams' letters to his close friend John Ciardi for the years 1961 to 1984 are present in these papers. The letters in Subseries D, combined with Ciardi's to Williams present in Subseries B, constitute nearly the whole of their quarter century correspondence.

Related Material

Additional materials relating to Miller Williams at the Harry Ransom Center are found in the manuscript holdings for Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., Anne Sexton, El Corno Emplumado, and Norman Mailer.
Institutions other than the Ransom Center holding Miller Williams materials include the Houghton Library, the Lilly Library, the Southern Historical Collection at Chapel Hill, N.C., and the Library of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Separated Material

Articles of clothing, dog collars, a slide rule, business cards, political ephemera, programs, and tickets associated with the 1997 presidential inauguration were transferred to the Ransom Center Personal Effects Collection. Also transferred are items related to John Ciardi, including a deck of cards and a Saturday Review note pad bearing Ciardi's name.
Sound recordings containing interviews, readings, and other content associated with Williams were transferred to the Ransom Center Sound Recordings Collection.
Video recordings containing interviews, readings, and other content association with Williams were transferred to the Ransom Center Moving Image Collection.
Two commercial sound recordings of Williams' poetry and one commercial videocassette were transferred to the Ransom Center library and are listed in the University of Texas Library Catalog.

Index Terms


Carter, Jimmy, 1924- .
Ciardi, John, 1916-1986.
Gioia, Dana.
Gwynn, R. S.
Haley, George Williford Boyce, 1925- .
Hazo, Samuel, 1928- .
Justice, Donald, 1925-2004.
McDougall, Jo.
Masterson, Dan, 1934- .
Nims, John Frederick, 1913-1999.
Stokesbury, Leon, 1945- .
Stone, John, 1936- .
Turco, Lewis.


Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, La.). Press.
University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign Campus). Press.
University of Missouri Press.


Arkansas—Intellectual life—20th century.
Authors, American—20th century.
Poets, American—20th century.

Document Types

Cartoons (humorous images).
Christmas cards.
Commonplace books.
Electronic documents.
First drafts.
Galley proofs.
Sheet music.
Sound recordings.

Container List