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 Hill (1970), Blues & Roots/Rue & Bluets: A Garland for the Southern Appalachians (1971), The Loco Logodaedalus in Situ (1972), Elite/Elate Poems (1979), and Get Hot or Get Out: A Selection of Poems, 1957-1981 (1982).

Associated with the Black Mountain poets, Williams was inspired by the visual arts, music, and the natural world; he experimented with found poetry and at times illustrated his work. His interests included civil rights, Appalachia and the Appalachian Trail, folk arts, and avant-garde poetry.

Through the relatively obscure but highly influential Jargon Press, Williams promoted the writings of such poets as Denise Levertov, Lorine Niedecker, Basil Bunting, Robert Creeley, Charles Olson, and Louis Zukofsky, as well as the art of outsider artists such as Thornton Dial and Howard Finster. Williams’s publishing selections for Jargon extended to Ernest Mickler’s 1987 bestseller, White Trash Cooking.

Williams lived in Scaly Mountain, North Carolina, and spent part of each year in England.