David Roessel & Nicholas Moschovakis, editors
The Collected Poems of Tennessee Williams.
New Directions, 112 pages, $18.95

It will surprise no one that the American playwright Tennessee Williams (1911–1983) always considered himself primarily a poet—everywhere in his dramatic work there is an intense lyricism and a language straining toward poetic effects. It should surprise more than a few, though, that Williams adored Hart Crane above all other poets, and wrote free verse in his early years that imitated his hero’s Modernist orotundities:

But a listener hears,
If he is expectant and still,
The infinitesimal tick of filaments in light bulbs
springing out of position,
fifty-watt Mazdas giving up steady white ghosts.

Industrial objects materialize in these early poems for no other reason than to supply the first term of a...

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