The Vigil Poems

C. K. Williams

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

96 Pages



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Nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award

The Vigil, which first appeared in 1997, finds contemporary American master-poet C. K. Williams taking a more reflective and empathetic turn in his work. As Jonathan Aaron wrote in The Boston Globe: "A matchless explorer of the burdens of consciousness, Williams has always written brilliantly about human pain, that which we inflict upon others and upon ourselves, and that which we experience in dreading what we're fated for. In The Vigil Williams affirms the uncanny resiliency of love as solace for pain—what he calls 'these invisible links that allure, these transfigurations even of anguish that hold us' ('The Neighbor'). It is a mystery he has probed before, but never with quite such sympathy and candor."


Praise for The Vigil

"The new poems are less obsessive than we expect from Williams, though no less focused. They are more relaxed and more lyrical, and they have expanded Williams's range to include those realms that once seemed too far off course for him to reach comfortably. The best poems in The Vigil don't ram in the details but rather gather them up and work with them, inter-leaving them with memories and thoughts to achieve a memorable, expansive eloquence."—George Weld, The Boston Book Review

"Williams is an undeniably great and original writer; his long-lined poems wrestle and nag at their subjects, sinewy, tightening—they are not 'emotion recollected in tranquillity' but acts of recognition, memory, realization . . . in which every nervy qualification is actually the mind stripping itself down to honesty."—Robert Potts, The Guardian (London)

"It is [his] tenderness for human frailties which makes Williams such a moving poet, and his patient questioning of . . . complex moral and philosophical problems which makes him an important one."—Sarah Maguire, The Independent on Sunday (London)

"The compelling poems in The Vigil testify to the ripening of [his] voice, a voice that has made Williams one of the most original and forceful poets of our time."—Rita Signorelli-Pappas, The Trenton Times

"The Vigil is a marvellous collection, and will only confirm Williams's importance. He is certainly one of the most influential poets writing in the language at the moment, and one of the best."—Conor O'Callaghan, Poetry Ireland Review

"Williams is writing poems whose heavy gravitational pull consists of those rarely used portions of our psyche's lexicon. It's exhilarating to hear this kind of dialogue—sometimes formal discourse, somtimes private chat, never small talk—between the gut and the brain. It's a sweet and generous sound."—Dionisio D. Martinez, The Georgia Review

Reviews from Goodreads



  • C. K. Williams

  • C. K. Williams was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1936. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Repair. His other books include Tar, The Vigil, Selected Poems, Flesh and Blood, and Misgivings. Williams teaches at Princeton University.

  • C. K. Williams Catherine Mauger