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.
In Writers Writing Dying, he retains the essential parts of his poetic identity – his candour, his compelling storytelling, the social conscience of his themes – while slyly reinventing himself, re-casting his voice, and in many poems examining the personal – sexual desire, the hubris of youth, the looming spectre of death – more bluntly and bravely than ever.
In 'Prose', he confronts his nineteen-year-old self, who despairs of writing poetry, with the question 'How could anyone know this little?' In a poem of meditation, 'The Day Continues Lovely', he radically expands the scale of his attention: 'Meanwhile cosmos roars on with so many voices we can't hear ourselves think. Galaxy on. Galaxy off. Universe on, but another just behind this one…' Even the poet's own purpose is questioned; in 'Draft 23' he asks, 'Between scribble and slash – are we trying to change the world by changing the words?' With this wildly vibrant collection – by turns funny, moving, and surprising – Williams proves once again that, he has, in Michael Hofmann’s words, 'as much scope and truthfulness as any American poet since Lowell and Berryman'.
‘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
C.K. Williams was born in New Jersey in 1936, and lives in Normandy, France, and Princteon, USA. He has published a dozen books in Britain with Bloodaxe, including New & Selected Poems (1995), The Vigil (1997), Repair (1999) and The Singing (2003) – all four of these were Poetry Book Society Recommendations – followed by Collected Poems (2006), Wait (2010) and Writers Writing Dying (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, USA, 2012; Bloodaxe Books, 2013), another Poetry Book Society Recommendation.
Flesh and Blood won the National Book Critics Circle Prize in 1987, Repair was awarded the 2000 Pulitzer Prize, and The Singing won the National Book Award for 2003. He has also been awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the PEN Voelker Career Achievement Award in Poetry for 1998; a Guggenheim Fellowship, two NEA grants, the Berlin Prize of the American Academy in Berlin, a Lila Wallace Fellowship, and prizes from PEN and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and is currently a chancellor of the American Academy of Poets.