Authors: C. K. Williams

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American poet

Author Works


A Day for Anne Frank, 1968

Lies, 1969

I Am the Bitter Name, 1972

The Sensuous President, 1972

With Ignorance, 1977

Tar, 1983

Flesh and Blood, 1987

Poems, 1963–1983, 1988

A Dream of Mind, 1992

Selected Poems, 1994

New and Selected Poems, 1995

The Vigil, 1997

Repair, 1999

Love About Love, 2001


Women of Trachis, 1978 (of Sophocles’ play Trachinai; with Gregory Dickerson)

The Lark, the Thrush, the Starling, 1983 (of Issa’s poetry)

The Bacchae, 1985 (of Euripides’play Bakchai; with H. Golder)

The Bacchae of Euripides: A New Version, 1990

Canvas, 1991 (of Adam Zagajewski’s poetry with Renata Gorczynski and Benjamin Ivry)

Selected Poems, 1994 (of Francis Ponge; with John Montague and Margaret Guiton)

Edited Texts:

Selected and Last Poems, 1989 (of Paul Zweig)

The Essential Hopkins, 1993 (Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poetry)


Poetry and Consciousness, 1998

Misgivings: My Mother, My Father, Myself, 2000


Born November 4, 1936, in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Paul B. and Dossie (née Kasdin) Williams, Charles Kenneth Williams was educated at Bucknell University and at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was graduated with a B.A. in 1959. In 1965, he married Sarah Jones; they had a daughter, Jessica Anne, who figures in Williams’s personal poems. At the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, he founded a program of poetry therapy and was a group therapist for disturbed adolescents.{$I[AN]9810001537}{$I[A]Williams, C. K.}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Williams, C. K.}{$I[tim]1936;Williams, C. K.}

C. K. Williams

(© Jim Kallet)

A Day for Anne Frank led to the publication of two volumes of poetry in 1969 and 1972 that established Williams as a protest poet of the Richard Nixon era. He was a visiting professor at Franklin and Marshall College in 1977 and at the University of California at Irvine in 1978 before becoming professor of English at George Mason University. In addition, he has taught creative writing at various workshops and colleges, including Boston University, Columbia University, and University of California at Berkeley.

A Guggenheim Fellowship in 1974 resulted in With Ignorance, the first book in his new style. In 1975, Williams married Catherine Mauger, a jeweler, with whom he had a son. Williams was awarded the Bernard F. Conner Prize for the long poem by The Paris Review in 1983; the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1987; the Morton Dauwen Zabel prize in 1989; the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Writers’ award in 1993; and the Harriet Monroe Prize from Poetry magazine, also in 1993. In 2000 he won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for Repair.

BibliographyBawer, Bruce. Review of Tar, by C. K. Williams. Poetry 144 (September, 1984): 353-355. Praises Tar for its portraiture, citing “Waking Jed” and “The Color of Time” as the best of the collection. Compares Williams to Walt Whitman, but says the former has more warmth and intensity of feeling. Argues that Tar is a reminder not only of “what poetry is all about, but what life is all about.” An appreciative review.Coles, Robert. Review of With Ignorance, by C. K. Williams. The American Poetry Review 8 (July/August, 1979): 12-13. Likens Williams to Søren Kierkegaard because both stay in the world while “groping for inner truth.” Coles says Williams has achieved in these poems a “humble intelligence” and considers the task in these poems as a journey fraught with challenges.Howard, Richard. Review of The Vigil, by C. K. Williams. Boston Review, Summer, 1997. Although Howard has serious and well-expressed reservations about the formal imposition of an extremely long line, he allows himself to admire those poems and passages in which Williams’s technique works effectively. Howard praises Williams’s successes in rendering “immediacy of sensation.”Jarman, Mark. The Secret of Poetry. Ashland, Ore.: Story Line Press, 2001. The chapter “The Pragmatic Imagination and the Secret of Poetry” compares Williams with Charles Wright and Philip Levine.Phillips, Brian. “Plainly, but with Flair.” New Republic, September 18, 2000, 42-45. Phillips reviews both Repair and the memoir Misgivings. He objects to Williams’s habit of moralizing and of glossing the beginning of a poem at the end. Williams forces the reader away from direct experience toward a preferred comprehension. This habit undermines his great descriptive powers. Phillips also notes the tension between Williams’s colloquial diction and his erudite range of references.Riding, Alan. “American Bard in Paris Stokes Poetic Home Fires.” The New York Times, October 4, 2000, p. E4. This flavorful piece of biographical journalism treats Williams’s relationship with Paris as well as the patterns of his writing and teaching careers.Santos, Sherod. “A Solving Emptiness: C. K. Williams and Charles Wright.” In his A Poetry of Two Minds. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2000. In a comparison of mid-career poems by both poets, Santos examines parallel aesthetic experimentation and the determination to overcome despair through art.
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