With a folding table in one hand and a typewriter carefully grasped in the other, William Davis, better known as Endlesswill, creates an interactive poetry experience during Hillsborough’s Last Fridays Art Walk. Crowds gather to watch as Davis composes personalized poems from the inspiration of a simple word. “I love sharing poetry with people on stage. I love sharing poems from reading my book. But at the core of it, I like to write,” said Davis. “Chances for me to write make my soul feel good.”
The 2016-2018 Hillsborough Poet Laureate has transformed the local arts landscape, adding to its vast literary talent. Davis has been at the forefront of bringing the art of the spoken word to the downtown streets, partnering with the Hillsborough Arts Council (HAC) to create mobile stage concerts, and bringing accomplished artists to the Last Friday events.
“Let’s have award-winning, spoken word artist come to Hillsborough,” suggested Davis. “We will round-robin from place to place and belt out poetry to the people.”
Since the relaunching of Last Fridays in April 2021, poets such as CJ Suitt, Chapel Hill Poet Laureate, and Ayanna Albertson, the top female slam poet in the United States, have shared their work.
“It doesn’t get any more beautiful than Last Fridays; people walking on stilts, the former mayor having his gallery open, and the local bars playing music on the [sidewalks],” expressed Davis.
Poetry found Davis at a young age, with one conversation lighting a fuse and leading him down the path of spoken word artistry.
“I began writing poetry in 2003, my junior year of high school,” explained Davis. “My high school English teacher, Miss Moe, had us write in these composition notebooks, the black notebooks everyone has written in before. I was a problematic young man; my mother was in prison, and my father [struggled] with addiction. Keeping my feelings to myself, I would always write in that composition notebook. Miss Moe kicked me out of class one day because I was being a belligerent young man. Opposed to just kicking me out, she followed me, my composition notebook in her hand. She let me know that I was a phenomenal poet. I had no idea about poetry; I just liked to write. But I guess the way I was expressing [myself] was poetry.”
Ambitious in his craft, this now husband and father of five has authored two books, currently teaches poetry at Chapel Hill’s Emerson Waldorf School, and continues to share his talents with the community.
“I am a spoken word artist who is dedicated to continuing the tradition of poetry in living form. Founded in a belief that creation and expression is one of the most valuable attributes gifted to humanity, I like to use writing to examine the spectrum of the human condition from a holistic point of view.”
Extending a hand, as once was done for him, Davis strives to help young individuals discover their true potential. In partnership with his wife, Katherine Stanely Davis, also a writer and teacher, the two assist aspiring young artists through their organization, Writers Block Publishing.
“We have about ten books published,” said Davis. “All of these are for free and from individual students who have just wanted to put books out themselves.”
Writer’s Block Publishing has also printed collective works from students throughout Orange County.
“We are trying our best to give young people an idea of being entrepreneurs,” said Davis. Davis has also partnered with HAC to develop a Youth Poet Laureate program. “When I became Poet Laureate in 2016, my main focus was on giving this opportunity to young people,” said Davis. “The Youth Poet Laureate allows somebody to embrace opportunities from writing. We are encouraging kids to focus on the potential of their talent.”
Along with the prestigious title, the recipient will receive a stipend and be given a national rank. Davis and the HAC plan to present the program to area schools in August and announce the recipient in October 2021.
Davis’ zeal for poetry has been warmly welcomed by the HAC and surrounding organizations, while his crusade to grow the art of spoken word continues to excite the Hillsborough community.
“I think Hillsborough is becoming more of a melting pot. The spoken word events, and bringing more culture to [the area], is going to respect that,” expressed Davis. “I have respect for Hillsborough and how the growth and the everlasting change is so much more steadfast than the unfortunate stories that have been told.”
Davis acknowledges the area’s history of racial divide and hardships but sees Hillsborough as a home for other artists of color. “Those [events] are unfortunate potholes in Hillsborough, but those are not Hillsborough’s roads. There is so much good in this community.”
Davis hopes to continue to attract a diverse crowd in both performers and guests. He explained, “Hillsborough is a very diverse community. I think it’s important for folks of color to understand, there’s good stuff [happening downtown].”