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.