Richard Cooper Williams: Poet

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[On Literature]

A time comes when one deems to stand still and take a moment to reflect; to look into the mirrored reflection that casts forth life as it manifests through memory, experience and deed.

Time, in this world of duality, rushes forward and catches the dreamer up in the race as they sprint toward the finish line. If one gains wisdom along the way, the dreamers opens their eyes wide enough to view the world of their own creation. This time has come for Richard Cooper Williams, author of a book of poetry entitled "From A Whisper to A Scream."

Richard has reached a juncture in his life at an age when most seek to retire. The couch life is not for Richard who has begun anew and seized his moment. In doing so, Mr. Williams hopes to share his life via inspiring others and in turn become even greater inspired himself.

Recently, Richard spoke to Initiative Radio host, Angela McKenzie, about his life, his music and his poetry. Born in Newark, NJ, in the 1930s, Richard Williams is quite the Renaissance man. His poetry reveals a tender yet maverick spirit refusing to be tamed. His mother was a gentle giant. His father maintained a nefarious lifestyle that prompted Richard to describe his father as never having a dark side but rather being the dark side. Illegal entanglements prompted the family to make a hasty retreat out of Newark and relocate to Bridgeport, Ct., when Williams was 2 years old. Richard’s father while in New Jersey worked as a bootlegger for the notorious Dutch Schultz. Ever the grape ‘technician’ Richard’s father continued to press his wine in the cellar of their Connecticut home, although, later he went into the housing business.

"My father was a man among men and he expected the same out of me. He came out of the Depression era at a time when the rivers were running red with black blood. He wasn’t the type to bow or scrape to anyone," recalls Richard, of a dad who had no tolerance for Richard’s creative side. "My grandmother was a Cherokee who did not walk the Trail of Tears and my mother had some Blackfoot in her. It was she and a teacher, Ms. Owens, who encouraged my exposure to the arts. My father saw no future in such things, thus insisted I learn a trade. Being rebellious, I was not having it, so my father and I had several angry exchanges. One winter day just before my 16th birthday, it came to a head and I announced I was leaving so my father kicked me out. My father said "If you leave, don’t come back!" I was heading down the steps when he ordered me back angrily yelling "Get back in the house." Filled with anger, pride, and pain and at the time, feeling he had no recourse, Richard shouted back "If you come down those stairs, I will kill you!" That was in 1954. "I wrote a poem about my father to bring about closure. It was the hardest poem I ever wrote. I loved him but I had to learn to love my father. My poem is entitled: PTSD: A POEM FOR PAPA."

"Yesterday I took a sentimental journey down by the rivers and streams of my childhood… Visited the sandbars of my adolescence. Revisited the stark dark terror of my youthful years…. The ebb and flow of those emotions still linger as strong as the high tide of a suicide impulse… Somehow I survived… But there are pieces of myself strewn along the paths of that journey like a battered doll… Pieces I saw but could not retrieve like initials in dry cement…Scars that will remain forever… Papa I forgive you… The child is father to the man conversely… After all is said and done, I am still my father’s son."

Richard joined an integrated military at age 17. "I remained in the military for 7 yrs, 1 month, and 2 days. I was a drill sergeant." Richard was forged in the crucible of the military. Although black and white soldiers fought together racism was always near the surface. "I recall a kid whose father was a grand dragon in the KKK. Military men often called each other brother and I voiced this toward him one day. He replied ‘Nigger, don’t ever call me brother. I am not your brother.’ I said to him that at least now I know who you are.’ War has a way of forging odd friendships and eventually this kid and I became friends. He was illiterate and I often helped him write letters home to his family. I came to see that we are all God’s children. I think dialogue opens talk. Talk makes you realize you don’t have to walk that war walk any longer," stated Williams.

Richard spent 48 days in a military prison in Dachau, Germany, where he saw the scratch marks of those who went into showers and ended up gassed. "I saw the fences and ovens. It had an impact on me. Despite my bad conduct, the military saw something in me and sought to reform me. I came out of service a radical pacifist. As much as there is a softer romantic side to me, I am conversely a black panther, atheist and radical pacifist. Yet I resist the spirituality in my own soul even while there is a piece of me that believes in something bigger than I am."

The women in Richard’s life guided him towards his moment of truth, self realizations and deep appreciation for women. He put aside the booze and drugs and chose a new path, "I am a registered nurse with a psychiatric certification. Nursing is my labor of love. I continue to evolve and self actuate. I’m a work in progress. At 69, I wrote my book which is on, and My 70th year, was the year of my coming out."


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