C.K. Williams (1936-2015) was the most challenging American poet of his generation, a poet of intense and searching originality who made lyric sense out of the often brutal realities of everyday life. His poems are startlingly intense anecdotes on love, death, secrets and wayward thought, examining the inner life in precise, daring language.
Wait– his first collection after Collected Poems (2006) – found Williams by turns ruminative, stalked by 'the conscience-beast, who harries me', and 'riven by idiot vigor, voracious as the youth I was for whom everything was going too slowly, too slowly'. Poems about animals and rural life are set hard by poems about shrapnel in Iraq and sudden desire on the Paris Métro; grateful invocations of Herbert and Hopkins give way to fierce negotiations with the shades of Coleridge, Dostoevsky and Celan. What the poems share is their setting in the cool, spacious, spotlit, book-lined place that is Williams’s consciousness, a place whose workings he has rendered for fifty years with inimitable candour and style.
‘A voice that has become utterly distinctive: restless, passionate, dogged, and uncompromising in its quest to find and speak the truth…an intelligence both compassionate and fierce…poems that delve into everything from the most joyous and private matters of the heart (he is one of our greatest love poets) to the chaos and horror of politics, warfare, and our species’ seemingly innate penchant for cruelty and self-destruction… Few poets leave behind them a body of work that is global in its ambition and achievement, but C.K. Williams is one of them. His poetry will speak to future generations, as it does to us, of what it was to be human in our time’ – Chase Twichell
‘As much scope and truthfulness as any American poetry since Lowell and Berryman’ – Michael Hofmann, TLS.
C.K. Williams reads 'The Singing'
C.K. Williams reads a poem from his Collected Poems. This film is from the DVD-book In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, edited by Neil Astley, which includes six poems from Collected Poems read by C.K. Williams.