Fiona Sampson, TLS Books of the Year 2010
C.K. Williams is the most challenging American poet of his generation, a poet of intense and searching originality who makes 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.
His latest collection, Wait, finds 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 MÈtro; 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.
"Williams's one faith is that things can be said, that subjects can be talked about, that poetry can seek to clarify as much as to beguile. His poems sometimes undertake philosophical inquiries whose effect can be both alarming and very funny... Williams is writing as well as ever."
Sean O'Brien, The Guardian
"The balancing of personal hurt against historical atrocity is masterful."
Paul Batchelor, TLS
"A voice that has become utterly distinctive: restless, passionate, dogged, and uncompromising in its quest to find and speak the truthÖ an intelligence both compassionate and fierceÖ 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-destructionÖ 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."
"As much scope and truthfulness as any American poetry since Lowell and Berryman."
Michael Hofmann, TLS