2014 Achieving Excellence

Well-versed: Student wins prestigious poetry fellowship

Phillip B. WilliamsAn example of Williams’ creative flow.

Visitation *

—or it was night that entered, tar-hued
and moved inside me new blood. Its star-
pocked fists gave the promise of bats.
I waited for their leather to spill into my window,
for their tiny throats to blow and trill. A bell
some miles away—bats in its mouth—loved
the taste and swayed. Here is a hunger to stir
me. A man could live in the blur
of a hundred hearts, could learn to tame
the eager clapper, which is loneliness
testing the marrow and waking what’s within:
scatter-song, blind and coming on like skin.

*previously published in The Paris-American

Graduate student Phillip B. Williams was one of five young poets nationwide to receive a prestigious $15,000 fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine.

In a 2011 article in Hunger Mountain, a literary magazine, poet Phillip B. Williams paraphrases poet Emily Dickinson. “She wanted poems to ‘knock [her] head off,’ ” said Williams, a master of fine arts candidate in creative writing in Arts & Sciences.

“That is the key,” Williams said. “It is the quote I live by and it affects the way I read other poems as well. I want to feel as though someone is, section by section, twisting me into something unintended and completely out of my and the poet’s control. I want my work to do the same.”

Apparently it did. Williams was one of five emerging poets nationwide to win a 2013 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship. The $15,000 fellowship is among the largest awards offered to young poets in the United States.

The Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow and native Chicagoan is thrilled to have his work recognized and to be given the freedom to produce more poetry.

“Writers oftentimes spend days, months and sometimes years wondering where the next paycheck is coming from and that can negatively affect one’s creative flow. I can now spend even more time doing what I love with flexibility.”

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