Collected Poems

C. K. Williams

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

704 Pages



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Collected Poems brings together nearly four decades of C. K. Williams's work: more than four hundred poems that, though remarkable in their variety, have in common Williams's distinctive outlook—restless, passionate, dogged, and uncompromising in the drive to find words for the truth about life as we know it today. For Williams, poetic forms are measures of thought, and in these pages we can see both the constancy of his preoccupations and the astonishing variety of means he has brought to the expression of them. His voice is both cerebral and muscular, capable of the eight-line poems of Flesh and Blood and the inward soundings of A Dream of Mind—and of the two together in the award-winning recent books Repair and The Singing. These poems feel spontaneous, individual, and directly representative of the experience of which they sing; open to life, they chafe against summary and conclusion.


Praise for Collected Poems

"C.K. Williams' poems are broad in scale and narrow in scope . . . His lines, longer than those written by any other significant English-language poet, suggest a big, Whitman-like appetite for worldly variety."—Dan Chiasson, The New York Times Book Review
"As the poet's sentences circle and plunge across his lines like plaited sinews, they 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."—Peter Campion, The Boston Globe
"Mr. Williams has supremely invented his poet. As a few poets do, he has created a world: turbulent, craggy and sometimes didactic. And one in which, with a warily agile skip or two among boxcars, a reader can find an explorer's reward."—Richard Eder, The New York Times
"[An] opus that makes clear why [Williams] has often been compared with Walt Whitman."—Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, The Wall Street Journal
"No matter when readers first discover Williams they can't help but be subsumed by the disconcerting beauty and unsparing candor of his vision. As this magnificent gathering of more than 400 poems affirms, Williams has not only celebrated life in all its glorious complexity in compassionate, long-lined, tidally powerful poems for four decades but also valiantly protested war and hate. A master of arresting juxtapositions, Williams considers love made and lost, fatherhood, and all the conflicts of city life. Protean and searching, he is also an unsentimental nature writer, addressing environmental fears, the instructive sight of a trapped wasp banging against a window, ubiquitous machine noise, woods felled, and ‘bloated tract mansions’ squatting where horses once ran. Book by book, Williams' resistance to destruction and corruption becomes more concentrated, and more resounding. The contents of 10 previous books are crowned with a set of clarion new poems to create a volume that belongs in every poetry collection."—Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
"Ever since his 1969 debut volume, Lies, Pulitzer Prize winner Williams has chronicled the misfortunes and miseries of everyday life in loquacious but plainspoken poems that more often resemble personal essays on a loose leash than they do poetry. This bookshelf-bending compendium gathers all of his published collections along with 21 new meditations on subjects such as water rats, shrapnel ('One wound is the next and the next'), a fish head, and a malformed thrush. Williams's vision of a world, in which human beings 'struggle to survive each other' can seem unrelentingly bleak . . . His voice is ultimately compassionate, though, and he manages to construct safe houses for the unremarked, the forlorn, and the unsavory and in so doing imbue them with a tenuous, uneasy dignity. Recommended."—Fred Muratori, Library Journal
"Williams's characteristic poems can be recognized as his on the page, in the ear or indeed from across a room. With long lines and flat language, his best work has the rangy virtues of well-observed free verse, the spark and force of gritty, realistic short stories and the harrowing inwardness of no-nonsense personal essays about parents and children, lovers and strangers, New Jersey and France . . . This . . . tome shows new and old readers the long arc of this Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner's career, from the morbid sanguinities of his apprentice work to the careful, moving, stanzaic focus evident in 21 new poems."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

C. K. Williams's books of poetry include Repair (Pulitzer Prize, 2002) and The Singing (National Book Award, 2003). He is also the author of a memoir, Misgivings. He teaches at Princeton University and lives part of the year in France.

Read the full excerpt


  • C. K. Williams

  • C. K. Williams is the author of nine books of poetry, including Flesh and Blood (National Book Critics Circle Award, 1987), Repair (Pulitzer Prize, 2000), and The Singing (National Book Award, 2003). His other books include translations of Sophocles' Women of Trachis, Euripides' Bacchae, and poems of Francis Ponge and Adam Zagajewski; a book of essays, Poetry and Consciousness; and a memoir, Misgivings. He is a member of American Academy of Arts and Letters, and teaches at Princeton University.
  • C. K. Williams Catherine Mauger