On Cowee Ridge

By Jonathan Williams 1929–2008 Jonathan Williams

December 13, 1993 

John Gordon Boyd
died on the birthday
of three remarkable, and remarkably different, writers:
Heinrich Heine, Kenneth Patchen, Ross McDonald
 
John, too, was just as remarkable, blessed with an inherent “graciousness”
and with extraordinary eyes & ears…
 
 
I think of two texts
on the grievous occasion of his death:
 
“Religion does not help me.
The faith that others give to what is unseen,
I give to what I can touch, and look at.
My Gods dwell in temples
made with hands.”
   Oscar Wilde, in De Profundis
 
 
and two lines in Rainier Maria Rilke,
John’s favorite poet,
that say it all…
 
Was tun Sie, Gott,
Wenn ich bin stürbe?
 
“What will you do,
God, when I am dead?”


Jonathan Williams, "On Cowee Ridge" from Jubilant Thicket: New & Selected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by Jonathan Williams.  Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Source: Jubilant Thicket: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Jonathan Williams 1929–2008

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Subjects Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Religion, The Spiritual, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Allusion, Elegy

Biography

Founder of the Jargon Society and publisher of Jargon Press, Jonathan Williams was born in Asheville, North Carolina. He attended St. Albans School in Washington, DC, and then Princeton University before dropping out to attend the Chicago Institute of Design and Black Mountain College. A photographer and graphic artist, his books include An Ear in Bartram’s Tree: Selected Poems, 1957-1967 (1969), Strung Out with Elgar on a . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Religion, The Spiritual, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Poetic Terms Allusion, Elegy

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.