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.
‘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. The result is four decades of 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. Like Whitman’s, his world view is simultaneously micro- and macrocosmic.
‘Williams’ rangy, elastic lines are measures of thought, and his syntax enacts the ways in which the mind moves through mood and memory, speculation and logic. Because the voice is both cerebral and muscular in its reflexes, the music it makes feels spontaneous, individual, and directly representative of the experience of which it sings. The poems are wholly American in this regard; their simultaneous tenderness and outrage bring to mind the music of Charles Ives.
‘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 (1936-2015)
C.K. Williams reads six poems from his Collected Poems. The first poem is his much discussed poem ‘The Dog’ from Tar (1983), and he gives some background comment after this part of the reading. This is followed by ‘Love: Beginnings’, ‘The Singing’, ‘The World’, ‘The Gaffe’ and ‘Cassandra: Iraq’. Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed Williams reading a selection of his poems during a visit to London in October 2007. This film is from the DVD-anthology In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce & edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2008).