C K Williams’s The Singing

I’ve been reading C K Williams’s ninth collection, The Singing (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003), for which he received the 2003 National Book Award.  The four part volume includes meditations on family, relationships, aging, mortality and bereavement.  The final section concerns terrorism, destruction and the nature of civilization.
I am awed by ‘The Hearth’, a reflection on war, moved by the tender ‘Elegy for an Artist’ dedicated to Tucson painter Bruce McGrew and, in the final stanza of ‘Lessons’ (previously published in Tin House), find five lines particularly striking in their honesty and simplicity:
” … And the way one can find oneself strewn
so inattentively across life, across time.
Those who touch us, those whom we touch,
we hold them or we let them go
as though it were such a small matter.”
There’s a flare of recognition every time I read these words.  This recognition, this resonance, this fleeting identification and connection with a stranger, is one of the reasons I read poetry.

4 thoughts on “C K Williams’s The Singing

  1. Jo

    Hey, we’ll be meeting him soon! This is a beautiful piece and I absolutely agree with your why…..it’s one of my major reasons too.

  2. Julie

    You are so right, Michelle. The book is fantastic. I need to think of new adjectives to describe my admiration for the wonderful poets you showcase. And, of course, my admiration for your work:)

    You’re also right about the connections. I love connecting with a poet’s words on the page. It is thrilling to connect with another person through one of my own poems, too. It is a humbling experience to have a stranger send me a snail mail letter that says “your words touched my life.” I don’t take it lightly. Maybe it is why we write.

    Thanks for another beautiful post!

  3. Regina

    I do like C.K. Williams poetry… he had a few poems he wrote about Anne Frank which touched me so… and one about a girl on the subway, I think- that collection is in a box unfortunately. And the poem of the flock of birds that suddenly flies up as he drives down the road- and the one bird that didn’t make it…
    Gosh, he’s so good, really.
    Thanks for this little snippet, Michelle.

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