w By Theresa Tighe Of the Post-Dispatch Staff In semiretirement, Marilyn Williams, mother and nursery school teacher, has transformed herself into Marilyn Williams, poet - published and paid.
One of her poems appears in "I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You," an anthology Simon & Schuster published this week. Another will be included in "Threads of Experience," due out in September from Papier-Mache Press of Watsonville, Calif.
Williams' pay from Simon & Schuster: about $20. Her pay from Papier-Mache: $250 plus a percentage of royalties.
Divorced before the oldest of her three children's seventh birthday, she spent most of her adult life earning a living, fulfilling others' needs and running errands.
Williams, now 68, of Brentwood, majored in fine art at Washington University. The German Expressionist painter Max Beckmann taught her painting. Unless she was writing, drawing or making something, Williams has always felt uncomfortable.
She had some sporadic, early successes. In 1957, she won $500 and a '57 Chevy Bel-Air in a General Motors jingle contest. In the early '60s, Child Life magazine published her poems. In one of them, Williams wondered if the porcupine, who looks so fierce, is just scared stiff.
When Williams creates, she simply sits down at her kitchen table, writes a few of her ideas in longhand and, when they begin to take shape, switches to her gray-and-white, electric Olympic typewriter, where she works until she is satisfied or runs out of time.
"Poems happen when thoughts, feelings, the visible world all meet and take me by surprise, somewhere I've never been before," she said.
A clear plastic bag holds the hundred or so poems, all neatly typed on white paper, that Williams deems good enough to call finished.
Her real success as a poet - contest wins and publication - began in the 1980s, after she took classes in poetry and joined the St. Louis Poetry Center. At the center, ioshe found constructive criticism and friends. …