Monday, September 21, 2015

Poet C.K. Williams

Pulitizer Prize-winning poet C.K. Williams died September 20. (Read his obituary in The New York Times.)

I still re-read frequently my copy of Williams's Love About Love (Ausable Press*, 2001), which the poet crafted from other collections and rearranged, creating what is one of the most comprehensive readings on the subject of love, especially how it makes us feel, what happens when we lose it or it becomes but a memory. The book is remarkably sustained thematically, frank, sensual, at times deeply moving, at times humorous, and altogether wide-ranging in its perspectives on the aspects and character of love, from first crush on.

Cover Art

In honor of Williams, who rewards the reader (or student of poetry) by showing what can be done with a line, prosaic details, familiar and intimate chatter, a mix of the sacred and profane, I share below a few excerpts from the characteristic long-lined vignettes comprising the poems that grace Love About Love.


It was like listening to the record of a symphony before you knew 
         anything at all about the music, 
[. . . .] 
~ from "First Desires"

Except for the dog, that she wouldn't have him put away, wouldn't 
         let him die, I'd have liked her. [. . .]
~ from "The Dog"


Sometimes, it would seem as though, still with me, she had al-
         ready left me. 
Sometimes, later, when she really had left, left again, I would seem 
         to ache,
not with the shocks or after-shocks of passion, but with simply
         holding her, holding on. 
~ from "One of the Muses"

[. . .]
The results were "negative"; now
I'll tell you of those hours in which my life,
not touching you but holding you,
not making a sound but crying for you,
divided back into the half it is without you.
~ from "Biopsy"


The most recent collections from C.K. Williams are Selected Later Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, September 22, 2015), All at Once: Prose Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, April 2014), and Writers Writing Dying (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, October 2012). His work also includes translations, critical appraisals, including a study of Walt Whitman, and memoir.

* Ausable Press was acquired by Copper Canyon Press. (Read "Q&A: Twichell Passes Ausable Torch", Poets & Writers, September/October 2008.)

1 comment:

Peggy Rosenthal said...

Thanks for this post. I didn't know he had died, and I've long enjoyed his poetry. "The Dance" is maybe my favorite.