New Poetry Collection:

As One Fire Consumes Another, Winner of the Orison Poetry Prize, judged by Vandana Khanna, Orison Books, April 2, 2019


Upcoming Poetry Collection:

Skin Memory, Winner of the Backwaters Prize, judged by Kwame Dawes, University of Nebraska Press, November 2019

Previous Books:



This is an important book from a major talent. Williams is an honest witness of a nation’s foibles, a writer who has the chops to see and name the worst in us and then divine it into something humane and beautiful to read. —The Oregonian

John Sibley Williams confronts the violent side of American history and its effect on our notions of self, fatherhood, and citizenship. […] The poems, which veer from elegiac to declarative to prayerlike, drill down into the beliefs and fears that underpin this violence. —Poets & Writers Magazine

One of the most original books of poetry I have read in decades. —Sean Thomas Dougherty

His poetry sets the normative uses of poetic language alight and burns away our safe skin of lyric expectation and contextual surety. Do not expect to read these poems and be unchallenged, unchanged. –Rusty Morrison

As One Fire Consumes Another transcends beyond the boundaries of family and history and country, beyond the body’s tragedies, the “silenced bones of others.” These poems rise as invocation, as testimonial to life’s unfiltered beauty, violence, and faith, to the “light . . . already in us.” –Vandana Khanna

As One Fire Consumes Another is a rare creation full of song and seethe […] It is a book of radiance and ruin that manages to be benevolent while breathing fire. –Simone Muench

If America’s collective conscience is at war, the wounds and battle scars are in full display in John Sibley Williams’ arresting book. –Rigoberto González

These poems live in brilliant little cages that Williams has built for them, the language itself held to the fire. This collection grieves. It flames. –Chelsea Dingman

Full of passion and heart, this book is always digging through the rubble towards life. –Tyree Daye


These poems move with unhurried purposefulness so that you trust the seething urgency and deliberateness of lines like ‘memory is a language that’s survived its skin’ or the painfully earned benediction and expression of resigned hope in ‘whatever finally breaks me, I cannot refuse it.’ Splendid poetry, never seeking to pander in its accessibility, but always, nonetheless, as plainspoken as each complex idea will allow.—Kwame Dawes

In John Sibley Williams’s new book Skin Memory, a child inherits an earth haunted by the violence of the past—landscape of his own skin. What then, identity? Skin memory, as opposed to blood memory, is porous. In these poems Williams feels himself across its divide, experiencing “the shrapnel seeing leaves behind in things,” and does so in language mesmerizing as “the slow pulse oaks bring to the forest.” I don’t often encounter poems deep enough to settle into that are, at the same time, this deeply unsettling. —Melissa Kwasny

Both imaginative and lucid, Skin Memory offers a rich cartography of our world as we’ve made it, a world of overlapping skins (human, animal, earth) that caress and wound and scar one another. Here there is no false nature/culture binary, but earth as palimpsest—a body made up of bodies, histories, and dreams of the future. Like the tattered fragments of Borges’s Map of the Empire, Williams’s world is always charged with mystery alongside human desire and folly: wherever our endeavors mark the landscape, there too the scrub grass peeks through. –Sarah Rose Nordgren

What's new...

Thanks so much to Trailer Park Quarterly for this gorgeous review of AOFCA!

Tinderbox just published this gorgeous review of Skin Memory.

Thanks to Amos Lassen for this passionate review of Skin Memory.

Beautiful review of AOFCA in Pedestal Magazine.

Such a lovely review of Skin Memory in After the Pause.

An incredible review of AOFCA in After the Pause.

Read my interview in The Idaho Press-Tribune.

A beautiful review of AOFCA in ZYZZYVA!

A wee little shout-out for Skin Memory in Poets & Writers!

My extended podcast interview with New Books Network is now available HERE!

My poems “Dark Tourist” and “The Drowning House” just won the 2019 Ninth Letter Poetry Award!

Review of “AOFCA” in The Oregonian!

Reflective review of “AOFCA” on Isacoustic.

New review of “AOFCA” on Savvy Verse & Wit.

New review of “As One Fire Consumes Another” on Amos Lassen’s blog.

Read my interview with The Reading Lists here!

“Don’t Assume It’s All True: Writing Honestly About Myself by Fictionalizing the Details” on Univ. Nebraska Press blog!

Thank you to my hometown paper, Wilmington Town Crier, for THIS lovely article!

To Swag or Not to Swag (And How to Do It Right)” article up on Trish Hopkinson’s site!

I’ve got an interview in Shelf Awareness! Read about my favorite books HERE!

“Simplify Your Submissions to Literary Journals” article up on Jane Friedman’s site.

Another article for you: 6 Tips for Successful Poetry Readings on Submittable.

Here’s the official book trailer for AOFCA!

Extensive interview for my new book on Rob Mclennan’s blog!

Check out my interview in Poets & Writers’ Literary MagNet column!

Huge news! University of Nebraska Press has just acquired Backwaters Press…so Skin Memory will be a UNP title!!

Another article for you: Finding Time to Write if You Have Toddlers on Good Men Project.

My “ 5 Tips to Acquire Your Dream Endorsements” article on Trish Hopkinson’s blog.

My poem “My American Ghost” just won the Wabash Prize from Sycamore Review!

My “Balancing Your Submission Budget for Literary Journals” article on Jane Friedman’s blog.

Contributor Spotlight interview in Bellingham Review.

Oh my! Seven Pushcart Prize Nominations this year!

Huge thanks to Sarah Rose Nordgren for this great blurb of “Skin Memory”, coming out in Sept. 2019!

So cool! A brief mention in this Portland Mercury article about Portland’s 2018 Lit Crawl!

Currently a finalist for two awards: Palette Poetry Prize and Knightville Poetry Contest! Fingers crossed!

My poem “Valentine” (published in Rhino 2018) gets a mention in NewPages!

Two new poems up on Virga!

My huge gratitude to the amazing Rusty Morrison for this generous endorsement of As One Fire Consumes Another!

Thanks so much to the editors of Construction Magazine for nominating my poem “We Can Make a Home of It Still” for the Best of the Net 2018!

Three new experimental poems up on Sequestrum!

The American Poetry Journal just nominated my poem “Restoration” for the 2019 Orison Anthology Award AND Radar just nominated my poem “Speaking of the Coal Bed My Father’s Father Fed to Keep the Old World Lit” for the 2019 Best of the Net!

Thank you thank you thank you to Rigoberto Gonzalez for this powerful endorsement of As One Fire Consumes Another.

I'll be a featured reader at the Tea & Poetry Festival at Lan Su Chinese Garden on October 6 @ noon! 

My poem "Forever Daylight" just won the 2018 Laux/Millar Poetry Prize, from Raleigh Review, judged by Dorianne Laux and Joseph Millar!

Counterclock Journal just nominated my poem "Fatherspeak"  for the Best of the Net 2018!

My immense gratitude to Chelsea Dingman for writing this beautiful blurb for my forthcoming Orison Prize Winning book As One Fire Consumes Another!

New poems up in Isthmus, Juked, and New Orleans Review.

Thanks so much to Simone Muench for providing this endorsement for As One Fire Consumes Another!

My three poem set just won the 2018 Phyllis Smart-Young Prize in Poetry (Madison Review)!

New poems up in Western Humanities Review and Green Mountains Review!

Read HERE Contest judge Kwame Dawes' endorsement of Skin Memory, winner of the Backwaters Prize, due out September 2019 from Backwaters Press.