This liner note was originally published in Oxford American’s 5th Annual Music Issue in 2001, accompanying the track “Down to the Well” on the sampler.
I’ve written poetry since I was fifteen; songwriting started when I began playing guitar three years later. Both have been good ways to talk to the dead or to say things to the living that would be too difficult or dangerous at close range.
An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.
For me, obsession with art is also about survival. I’m after the next thing, the next moment that will give shape or purpose to existence. It’s always been important for me to fill my days like this, to give definition to who I am and who I will be by engulfing myself in what I’m watching and listening to and reading. Getting lost in art that moves me just makes things make sense.
A conversation with Miller Williams.
I do believe that poetry is more satisfying when it has a pattern similar to those of songs. I wish that I could sing well, as I’m sure you know my daughter Lucinda does, and writes her own songs. Hank Williams (no kinship there) told me that since he often wrote his lyrics months before he set them to music, they spent those months as sort-of poems. I think the kinship is real.