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, âBeginnings,â he acknowledges Kahnâs 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.
His first book, Lies, was published in 1969, and since then he has published many collections of poetry, culminating in his Collected Poems, of which Peter Campion wrote in The Boston Globe: âThroughout the five decades represented in his new Collected Poems, Williams has maintained the most sincere, and largest, ambitions. Like Yeats and Lowell before him, he writes from the borderland between private and public lifeâ¦.[His poems] join skeptical intelligence and emotional sincerity, in a way that dignifies all of our attempts to make sense of the world and of ourselves. C. K. Williams has set a new standard for American poetry.â
Another collection, Wait, appeared in 2010, and another, Writers Writing Dying, came out in 2012.
He has written a memoir, Misgivings, which appeared in 2000, a collection of essays, Poetry and Consciousness, 1999, and critical study of Walt Whitman, On Whitman, 2010. A new collection of essays, In Time: Poets, Poems and the Rest, will be published in 2012.
Williams is also an acclaimed translator, notably of Sophoclesâ Women of Trachis and Euripidesâ The Bacchae, as well as of the Polish poet Adam Zagajewski and the French poet Francis Ponge.
He has also published several childrenâs books.
- A Day for Anne Frank, Falcon Press, Philadelphia, 1968.
- Lies, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1969.
- I Am the Bitter Name, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1972.
- With Ignorance, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1977.
- Tar, Random House, New York, 1983.
- The Lark. The Thrush. The Starling. Poems from Issa, Burning Deck Press, Providence, 1983.
- Flesh and Blood, Farrar Straus and Giroux, New York, 1987; Bloodaxe Books, Newcastle, 1988.
- Poems 1963-1983, Farrar Straus and Giroux, New York, 1988; Bloodaxe Books, Newcastle, 1988.
- Helen, Orchises Press, 1991.
- A Dream of Mind, Poems, Farrar Straus and Giroux, New York, 1992; Bloodaxe Books, Newcastle, 1992.
- Selected Poems, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1994.
- New and Selected Poems, Bloodaxe Books, Newcastle, 1995.
- The Vigil, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1997.
- Repair, Farrar Straus and Giroux; Bloodaxe Books, 1999.
- The Singing, Farrar Straus and Giroux; Bloodaxe Books, 2003.
- Collected Poems, Farrar Straus and Giroux; Bloodaxe Books, 2006.
- Creatures, Green Shade, Haverford, 2006.
- Wait, Farrar Straus and Giroux; Bloodaxe Books, 2010.
- Crossing State Lines, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2011.
- Writers Writing Dying, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2012.
- All at Once: Prose Poems, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.
- Women of Trachis, translated from Sophocles, with Gregory Dickerson, Oxford University Press, New York, London, 1978.
- The Bacchae, translated from Euripides, with an introduction by Martha Nussbaum, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1990.
- Canvas, translation from the Polish of Adam Zagajewski, with Renata Gorczynski and Benjamin Ivry, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1991.
- Selected Poems of Francis Ponge, with John Montague and Margaret Guiton, Wake Forest University Press, 1994.
- Misgivings, My Mother, My Father, My Self, a memoir, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2000.
- Books Edited
- The Selected and Last Poems of Paul Zweig, edited and with an introduction by C. K. Williams, Wesleyan University Press, 1989.
- The Essential Gerard Manley Hopkins, edited and with an introduction by C. K. Williams, Ecco Press, 1993.
- Essays and Criticism
- Poetry and Consciousness, Selected Essays; University of Michigan Press, 1998.
- On Whitman, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2010.
- In Time: Poets, Poems, and the Rest. Forthcoming 2012:
- Solitudes, a song cycle, set by Ronald Surak, 1970.
- Script consultant for a film by David Lynch, The Grandmother.
- Criminals, a film by Joseph Strick, narrative by C. K. Williams, 1994.
- The Operated Jew, a play, unproduced.
- Creatures of Love, a play, unproduced.
- Childrenâs books
- How the Nobble Was Finally Found, Harcourt-Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2009.
- A Not Scary Story About Big Scary Things illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska, Harcourt-Houghton Mifflin, 2010.
Awards and Honors
- John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, 1974.
- Bernard Conner Prize, The Paris Review, 1983.
- Nominee, National Book Critics Circle Award, for Tar, 1983.
- National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, 1985 and 1993.
- National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, for Flesh and Blood, 1987.
- Finalist, Pulitzer Prize, for Flesh and Blood, 1987.
- Jerome Shestack Prize, The American Poetry Review, 1988, 1996.
- Morton Dauwen Zabel Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1989.
- Woodrow Wilson-Lila Wallace Fellow, 1992-93.
- Nominee, National Book Critics Circle Award, for A Dream of Mind, 1992.
- Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writer's Award, 1993.
- Harriet Monroe Poetry Award, Poetry, 1993.
- Nominee, National Book Critics Circle Award, for The Vigil, 1997.
- Finalist, Pulitzer Prize, for The Vigil, 1997.
- PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, 1998.
- Berlin Prize, American Academy in Berlin, 1998.
- Finalist, National Book Award, for Repair, 1999.
- American Academy of Arts and Letters Literature Award, 1999
- Weathertop Poetry Award for Repair, 2000.
- Maurice English Award for Repair, 2000.
- Los Angeles Times Book Award for Repair, 2000.
- Pulitzer Prize, for Repair, 2000.
- Pen/Albrand Memoir Award, for Misgivings, 2001.
- National Book Award, for The Singing, 2003.
- Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, 2005.
- Milton Kessler Poetry Prize, Binghamton University, 2012.
- Jewish Book Prize, 2012.
- Poetry Foundation (U.S) biography accessed 2010-02-10
- Poetry Archive (U.K) biography and audio poetry recordings accessed 2010-02-10
- Encyclopaedia Britannica profile
- A Poet Watches Himself as He Watches the World New York Times article, December 25, 2006 accessed 2010-02-27
- Poet Marshals His Moral Passion Against the War New York Times article January 13, 2005 accessed 2010-02-27
- C.K. Williams reading his poetry at TED conference accessed 2010-02-27
- Poetry.LA's video of C.K. Williams' reading at the 3rd Area Reading Series, PHARMAKA Gallery, Los Angeles, 3/19/2009
- The National Book Foundation C.K. Williams's acceptance speech for the 2003 Poetry Award for The Singing, reading his poem "The Doves." Accessed 11/30/2010
- 'Song of Himself', review of On Whitman in the Oxonian Review
- "Poets in Person: C.K. Williams" (HD Video), A family visit with C.K. Williams at his home in Hopewell, NJ, The Cortland Review - Winter 2011 Feature.