Few writers achieve success in more than one genre, and yet if Tennessee Williams had never written a single play he would still be known as a distinguished poet. The excitement, compassion, lyricism, and humor that epitomize his writing for the theater are all present in his poetry. It was as a young poet that Williams first came to the attention of New Directions’ founder James Laughlin, who initially presented some of Williams’ verse in the New Directions anthology Five Young American Poets 1944 (before he had any reputation as a playwright), and later published the individual volumes of Williams’s poetry, In the Winter of Cities (1956, revised in 1964) and Androgyne, Mon Amour (1977). In this definitive edition, all of the playwright’s collected and uncollected published poems (along with substantial variants), including poems from the plays, have been assembled, accompanied by explanatory notes and an introduction by Tennessee Williams scholars David Roessel and Nicholas Moschovakis. The CD included with this paperbook edition features Tennessee Williams reading, in his delightful and mesmerizing Mississippi voice, several of the whimsical folk poems he called his “Blue Mountain Ballads,” poems dedicated to Carson McCullers and to his longtime companion Frank Merlo, as well as his long early poem, “The Summer Belvedere.”
This collection of previously unpublished one-acts includes some of Tennessee Williams’s most poignant and hilarious characters: the tough and outrageous drag queens of And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens…; the betrayed wife who refuses to take a lover in The Fat Man’s Wife; and the extravagant mistress who cheats on her married man in The Pink Bedroom.
Most of these plays were written in the 1930s and early 1940s, when Williams was already flexing his formindable theatrical imaginations: lovers scramble for quick assignations in the closed movie theater balcony of These Are the Stairs You’ve Got to Watch; Chekovian-style family ennui in Summer at the Lake leads to heartbreak; and in Thank You, Kind Spirit a mulatto spiritualist from New Orleans’ French Quarter is visciously exposed as a fraud – or is she?
Acclaimed stage and film actors Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson have conitrbuted a delightful foreword based on their memories of working with the playright, while an insightful introduction and notes by editors Nicholas Moschovakis and David Rossel provide biographical and textual background.