All at Once Prose Poems

C. K. Williams

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

208 Pages



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C. K. Williams has never been afraid to push the boundaries of poetic form-in fact, he's known for it, with long, lyrical lines that compel, enthrall, and ensnare. In his latest work, All at Once, Williams again embodies this spirit of experimentation, carving out fresh spaces for himself and surprising his readers once more with inventions both formal and lyrical.

Somewhere between prose poems, short stories, and personal essays, the musings in this collection are profound, personal, witty, and inventive-sometimes all at once. Here are the starkly beautiful images that also pepper his poems: a neighbor's white butane tank in March "glares in the sunlight, raw and unseemly, like a breast inappropriately unclothed in the painful chill." Here are the tender, masterful sketches of characters Williams has encountered: a sign painter and skid-row denizen who makes an impression on the young soon-to-be poet with his "terrific focus, an intensity I'd never seen in an adult before." And here are a husband's hymns to his beloved wife, to her laughter, which "always has something keen and sweet to it, an edge of something like song."

This is a book that provokes pathos and thought, that inspires sympathy and contemplation. It is both fiercely representative of Williams's work and like nothing he's written before-a collection to be admired, celebrated, and above all read again and again.


Praise for All at Once

"All at Once, defies easy categorization . . . What Williams has written here definitely are poems, but they're also simultaneously mini-memoirs or even flash fiction. It ultimately doesn't matter how we define them . . . The strongest parts of the book are those that look mortality in the eye . . . The similes often pop from the page . . . Some poems . . . may very well stand among the most rewarding of Williams' tremendous career . . . He's such a keen observer of our world--of our rhythms and our rhetorics. Given all of the chameleonic things he has achieved, perhaps it should come as no surprise to see Williams reinvent himself yet again as our elder statesman of TMI-overload and still continue to demonstrate why he's considered a national treasure."-Andrew Irvin, The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Reading each of the pieces [in All at Once] requires taking one's bearings in relation to its genre-what kind of writing is this an instance of, and how do I know? That challenge can be bracing: it wakes the reader (and perhaps the writer) from the complacencies of a genre's settled conventions, its recipes for closure . . . Within [All at Once] are a number of first-rate writing, whatever genre we may assign to them."-Tikkun

Reviews from Goodreads



  • C. K. Williams

  • C. K. Williams's books of poetry include Flesh and Blood, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award; Repair, which won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; and The Singing, winner of the National Book Award. Williams was awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize in 2005. He has written a critical study, On Whitman; a memoir, Misgivings; and two books of essays, the most recent of which is In Time: Poets, Poems, and the Rest. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

  • C. K. Williams Catherine Mauger