University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The Literature Collection

Page View

Williams, Mason, 1938- / Them poems

Introduction,   pp. 9-11 ff.

Page 9

                     Writing Them
I wrote a lot of poetry in my youth, especially in college and also
while I was in the Navy. I was stationed at the Amphibious Forces
base in Coronado (San Diego), California. Since I lived only a
couple of blocks from the ocean, it became a major source of
inspiration. I would go down to the beach every evening after
dinner in search of seashells, driftwood, or whatever else one
might find. I always came back with at least some seashells and
usually an idea for a poem or two as well. I once came across a
barstool (upside down) with a dead harbor seal right next to it.
I wrote a poem about what a wild party it must have been.
    For a while I endeavored to inscribe my beach and ocean
poems (with India ink) on the insides of seashells and, the next
evening, take them back to the beach and throw them into the
sea. I always hoped I would find one of these shells washed
ashore again, but I never did. I often wondered if anyone ever
found one.
    My first them poem was written as part of this routine. On
weekends I'd usually go down to the beach during the day. It
was December 15, 1962, a Saturday. There was a buzz in the air
that seemed to be affecting everyone. People were doing all those
beach-y things they do on a beautiful, sunny California winter's
day. In particular, lots of people (especially little kids) were dig-
ging furiously in the sand. The high-energy level of everyone
pickin' away with shovels and sticks was infectious. It felt like
being a part of a communal treasure hunt! So I sat on a rock and
wrote, "Them Sand Pickers." I wrote "Them Banjo Pickers"
next day.
    I didn't realize right away that I was working out a poetic
 form that could be used to explore other subjects. It was my
 friends Ed Ruscha and Joe Goode-L.A.-based artists and bud-
 dies from my high school days in Oklahoma City-who inspired

Go up to Top of Page