Archives for posts with tag: Tennessee Williams

Congratulations to Eddie Woods — a poet and contributing editor for several Silver Birch Press anthologies — on the publication of his memoir Tennessee Williams in Bangkok.

BOOK DESCRIPTION FROM AMAZON: A playwright, a journalist, and a stunningly beautiful drag-queen prostitute. In this fascinating memoir, Eddie Woods brings all three together. And along the way graces us with countless insights into the heart and mind of one of America’s greatest dramatists. Even while paying homage to his beloved Kim, the most unique of his many lovers. As well as regaling us with numerous other tales of his more than two years in the City of Angels. Wherever he is, Tennessee Williams is smiling at this book. Now you can smile with him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eddie Woods (born 1940 in New York City) is a well-traveled poet and prose writer who variously worked as a short-order cook, computer programmer, encyclopedia salesman, restaurant manager, and journalist. In the early 1960s he did a four-year stint in the US Air Force, and since 1978 has mainly resided in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where together with Jane Harvey he launched Ins & Outs magazine and founded Ins & Outs Press. Of all the many writers and artists he has known, Tennessee Williams remains the most memorable.

Find Tennessee Williams in Bangkok at

by Liam Rector

Fat Southern men in their summer suits,
Usually with suspenders, love to sweat
Into and even through their coats,

Taking it as a matter of honor to do so,
Especially when the humidity gets as close
As it does each Southern summer.

Some think men could do better
By just going ahead and taking the damned
Coats off, but the summer code stays

Because summer is the time
For many men, no matter what their class,
To be Southern Gentlemen by keeping

Those coats on. So late in life here I am
Down here again, having run to fat
(As Southern men tend), visiting the farm

Where my grandfather deposited
So much of his own working sweat,
Where Granddaddy never bought into any

Of “that Southern Gentleman crap.”
Up north where I landed in the urban
Middle class I am seldom caught

Not wearing a coat of some kind. I love
The coats, and though I love them most
In the fall I still enact the summer code,

I suppose, because my father and I did buy
That code, even though I organized students
To strike down any dress code whatsoever

In the high school I attended (it was a matter
Of honor). And it still puts me in good humor
To abide with the many pockets, including

One for a flask. So whether it’s New York,
Vermont, or Virginia, the spectacle
Of the summer seersucker proceeds,

Suspenders and all, and I lean into the sweat
(Right down to where the weather really is)
Until it has entirely soaked through my jacket.

…From Liam Rector‘s collection The Executive Director of the Fallen World (University of Chicago Press, 2006), available at

Photo: Ned Beatty as Big Daddy in a 2003 production (on Broadway in NYC) of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams.

ImageABOUT THE AUTHOR: Liam Rector (1949-2007) received an MA from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and an MPA from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. His books of poems include The Executive Director of the Fallen World (University of Chicago Press, 2006), American Prodigal (1994) and The Sorrow of Architecture (1984). Rector’s honors include fellowships in poetry from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Friend to Writers Award from PEN New England. He served as poetry editor of Harvard Magazine and as associate editor of Harvard Review and Agni. Rector taught at Columbia University, The New School, Emerson College, George Mason University, and elsewhere. He founded and directed the graduate Writing Seminars at Bennington College, and administered literary programs at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Academy of American Poets. (Read more at

Author photo by Star Black

Editor’s Note: We have been suffering with killer heat in Los Angeles for the past four days, which sent me on a search for poetry about surviving the heat. Couldn’t resist posting “Fat Southern Men in Their Summer Suits.” I must add that I’ve spent a lot of time in South during various summers, and — at least for me — the heat in the Southern states can’t match anything in Southern California. One more thing…a nod to those Southern gentlemen who suffer through the heat in their seersucker suits — your gallantry has not gone unappreciated.


The ever-vigilant, erudite ace journalist Eddie Woods pointed out a significant error in our post yesterday that marked the birthday of Tennessee Williams. I incorrectly stated that Williams — born in Mississippi and raised in Missouri — had “no connection to Tennessee.” As Eddie pointed out in his email, “…his [Williams’] father attended the University of Tennessee…and was directly descended from Tennessee’s first senator, John Williams.”

Eddie also forwarded a page from TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: MEMOIRS, where Williams states, “The question I’m asked with most tedious frequency by interviewers and talk-show hosts is ‘How did you get the name Tennessee when you were born in Mississippi?’ So that’s the justification for my professional monicker — and I’ve also just indulged myself in the Southern weakness for climbing a family tree.” Find the book at

Thank you, Eddie Woods, journalist and researcher extraordinaire!

Photo: Tennessee Williams, New York City, 1948


Today we celebrate the 1911 birth of Tennessee Williams — who remains, at least in my estimation, the greatest American playwright for his lyricism, characters, originality, honesty, insight, and compassion. Born in Columbus, Mississippi, and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Williams had no connection to Tennessee — other than the word starting with the same letter as his given name (Thomas). He decided not to call himself “Mississippi” Williams or “Missouri” Williams because he wasn’t fond of the abbreviated version (i.e., Miss Williams).

It’s been 30 years since Williams’ 1983 passing (at age 71), but he will live forever in his unforgettable creations — Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski (Streetcar Named Desire), Maggie the Cat and Big Daddy (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), Laura and Amanda Wingfield (The Glass Menagerie), and scores of others.

Here is some playwriting advice from the master:

“I believe the way to write a good play is to convince yourself it is easy to do — then go ahead and do it with ease. Don’t maul, don’t suffer, don’t groan till the first draft is finished. A play is a pheonix and it dies a thousand deaths. Usually at night. In the morning it springs up again from its ashes and crows like a happy rooster. It is never as bad as you think, it is never as good. It is somewhere in between, and success or failure depends on which end of your emotional gamut concerning its value it approaches more closely. But it is much more likely to be good if you think it is wonderful while you are writing the first draft. An artist must believe in himself. Your belief is contagious. Others may say he is vain, but they are affected.” TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, as found in his 856-page Notebooks (Yale University Press, 2007) available at


BOOK RECOMMENDATION: I’ve read Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates three times— and consider this 1961 novel a prose miracle. And  I’m in good company.

“The Great Gatsby of my time…One of the best books by a member of my generation.” KURT VONNEGUT

“Here is more than fine writing; here is what added to fine writing makes a book come immediately, intensely, and brilliantly alive. If more is needed to make a masterpiece in modern American fiction, I am sure I don’t know what it is.” TENNESSEE WILLIAMS

NOTE: At a thrift store, I recently found a Vintage Contemporaries paperback edition of Revolutionary Road  (in very good condition) and will mail the book to the first person in the U.S. who leaves a comment on this post. This is our second book giveaway.


Excerpt from The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams:

JIM. Aw, yes, I’ve placed you now! I used to call you Blue Roses. How was it that I got started calling you that?

LAURA. I was out of school a little while with pleurosis. When I came back you asked me what was the matter. I said I had pleurosis — you thought I said Blue Roses. That’s what you always called me after that!

JIM. I hope you didn’t mind.

LAURA. Oh, no — I liked it. You see, I wasn’t acquainted with many people. . . .

The Glass Menagerie made its debut in Chicago during 1944 before moving to Broadway the following year and winning the New York Drama Critics Circle Award.

Photo: Noumenon


I just finished rereading The Great Gatsby (read it free here) and decided that all the novels I dive into until September will be revisits to favorite books. Next on the list: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (originally published in 1961).

I picked this novel because it seemed a logical sequel to Gatsby — a sort of “What would have happened if Gatsby had married Daisy?”

This will be my third reading of Revolutionary Road — a novel I consider a prose miracle. And  I’m in good company.

The Great Gatsby of my time…One of the best books by a member of my generation.” Kurt Vonnegut

“Here is more than fine writing; here is what added to fine writing makes a book come immediately, intensely, and brilliantly alive. If more is needed to make a masterpiece in modern American fiction, I am sure I don’t know what it is.” Tennessee Williams

If you want to read along with me, you can find Revolutionary Road here. (Yes, this is the book the Leonardo Di Caprio/Kate Winslet movie was based on — but, as usual, the book is better than the screen version.)

(Silver Birch Photo: Window of dry cleaners, Harlem Avenue, Chicago)