Charles Kenneth Williams
Biography of Charles Kenneth Williams
C. K. Williams (born Charles Kenneth Williams on November 4, 1936) is an American poet, critic and translator. Williams has won nearly every major poetry award. Flesh and Blood won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1987. Repair (1999) won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, was a National Book Award finalist and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. The Singing won the National Book Award, 2003 and in 2005 Williams received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. The 2012 film Tar related aspects of Williams' life using his poetry.
C. K. Williams grew up in Newark, New Jersey and graduated from Columbia High School in Maplewood. He later briefly attended Bucknell University and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. While at Penn he studied with the romantic scholar, Morse Peckham, and spent a great deal of time in the circle of young architects who studied with and worked for the great architect Louis Kahn. In an essay, “Beginnings,” he acknowledges Kahn’s dedication and patience as essential to his notion of the life of an artist.
Williams lived for a period in Philadelphia, where he worked for a number of years as a part-time psychotherapist for adolescents and young adults, a ghost-writer and editor, then began teaching, first at the YM-YWHA in Philadelphia, then at several universities in Pennsylvania, Beaver College, Drexel, and Franklin and Marshall. He subsequently taught at many other universities, including Columbia, NYU, Boston University, the University of California, both at Irvine and Berkeley, before finally becoming a professor at George Mason University, then moving in 1995 to Princeton University, where he has taught poetry workshops and translation ever since.
He met his present wife, Catherine Mauger, a French jeweler, in 1973, and they have a son who is now a noted painter, Jed Williams. He has a daughter from an earlier marriage, Jessie Williams Burns, who is a writer. He lives half the year near Princeton, and the rest in Normandy in France.
He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Charles Kenneth Williams Poems
The first morning of Three Mile Island: those first disquieting, uncertain, mystifying hours. All morning a crew of workmen have been tearing the old decrepit roof off our building,
They Call This
A young mother on a motor scooter stopped at a traffic light, her little son perched on the ledge between her legs; she in a gleaming helmet, he in a replica of it, smaller, but the same color and just as shiny. His visor is swung shut, hers is open.
If that someone who's me yet not me yet who judges me is always with me, as he is, shouldn't he have been there when I said so long ago that thing I said?
Kids once carried tin soldiers in their pockets as charms against being afraid, but how trust soldiers these days not to load up, aim, blast the pants off your legs?
From My Window
Spring: the first morning when that one true block of sweet, laminar, complex scent arrives from somewhere west and I keep coming to lean on the sill, glorying in
Chop, hack, slash; chop, hack, slash; cleaver, boning knife, ax— not even the clumsiest clod of a butcher could do this so crudely, time, as do you, dismember me, render me, leave me slop in a pail,
Another drought morning after a too brief dawn downpour, unaccountable silvery glitterings on the leaves of the withering maples— I think of a troop of the blissful blessed approaching Dante, "a hundred spheres shining," he rhapsodizes, "the purest pearls…"
From My Window
Spring: the first morning when that one true block of sweet, laminar,
complex scent arrives
from somewhere west and I keep coming to lean on the sill, glorying in
the end of the wretched winter.
The scabby-barked sycamores ringing the empty lot across the way are
budded —I hadn't noticed —
and the thick spikes of the unlikely urban crocuses have already broken
the gritty soil.
Up the street, some surveyors with tripods are waving