by Williams

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The eighth book-and the most various yet-by a major american poet.

With his two previous books, a generous Selected Poems and The Vigil, C. K. Williams received great acclaim, including the PEN/Voelcker Award and the prestigious Berlin Prize. Repair represents an extraordinary outpouring of nearly fifty new poems. His subjects, again, are love

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The eighth book-and the most various yet-by a major american poet.

With his two previous books, a generous Selected Poems and The Vigil, C. K. Williams received great acclaim, including the PEN/Voelcker Award and the prestigious Berlin Prize. Repair represents an extraordinary outpouring of nearly fifty new poems. His subjects, again, are love, death, secrets among intimates, the waywardness of thought, and the violence and metaphoric power of the natural world. A long poem about the sixties, "King," broods over the mixed motives and misunderstandings of the period; the final poem defines, and in its way celebrates, the "invisible mending" of time and attentiveness to the thing itself. Here is a poet in full maturity, his mastery transforming everything he touches.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his long career Williams has performed a rare feat, forging a distinctive style by great labor without a late flop into exhausted mannerism. Past 60, newly a grandfather, he is still a foxy tinkerer, offering a good deal of variety in his characteristic long line, snaking into solid stanzas, couplets and even prose blocks. He tries out new moods, ecstatic italics here (Open, she says, open up!); a bracing gust of Baudelaires cool irony there; but his project remains consistent: rendering the broadstroke conflicts of consciousness as it arrives at points of decision. "Risk" asks if we unknowingly crave disaster. An exchange of looks with a hare from within a stranded train allows his mind that trick of trying to go back into its wilder part. "The Nail" tries to come to terms with how a dictator had gruesomely disposed of enemies (its we who do such things). Throughout, Williams, following Lowell and Berryman, sets off after the sources of the self, as in "House": Down under all to the ancient errors, indolence, envy, pretension, the frailities as though in the gene;/ down to where consciousness cries Make me new, but pleads as pitiably, Cherish me as I was./ Down to the swipe of the sledge, the ravaging bite of the pick; rubble, wreckage, vanity: the abyss. The individual poems dont accumulate narrative momentum or add up to a sequence, as previous works have. But Williams's unreconstructed liberal agony (the flip side to Billy Collinss bourgeois-surrealist conflict resolution), continues to exude a Lowell-like earthiness, and earnest near-candor. (June)
Library Journal
A prolific poet and translator, winner of numerous awards and fellowships, Williams (The Vigil, Farrar, 1997) is best known for his breathless, long, and often prosaic line. But in this eighth volume of poetry, he intersperses short-lined poems--perhaps his finest works to date. Focused and lyrical, they include delicate love poems set against precarious backdrops. "Dirt," for example, speaks of the grandmother who washed his mouth out with soap and how he "never, until now, loved her again." One senses the poem itself becoming the instrument of healing and loving. Aptly titled, this entire volume deals with self-understanding in a world where there is "no end to our self-shaping." Williams's most compelling insights are often embedded in the mundane: the sight of his face in the mirror, a pair of shoes left on a windowsill. Together and apart, these images lead him toward "the space within me, within which I partly, or possibly most exist." Yes. Recommended for most collections.--Rochelle Ratner, formerly with Soho Weekly News, New York Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The much-celebrated Princeton professor (whose honors include an NBCC award) provides in this, his eight book of verse, a wishful definition of his art: a poet is "someone who lives in words, making a world from their music." Elsewhere, he reveals his dissatisfaction with language when sculpting with wax, "something real," "instead of words." Such confusion about his work results partly from Williams's clumsy style—he's made the extra-long-line his trademark, but his pronouns often lose their referent as a result; his stale and undistinguished vocabulary is propped up by a preponderance of adverbs; and his flat and wordy lines derive their only rhythms from the pointless repetition of phrases. The author sticks with the driving themes of his previous volumes: the struggle between "consciousness" (a word he uses way too often) and being in the moment; between love and despair; between the heart and the mind—though neither of these fares well. Williams's testaments to love are cloying at best: in a poem to his newborn grandson, he enters the child's "consciousness" and is overwhelmed by "such love"; in "Depths," a childhood fear anticipates the poet's fear of never having found his true "love"; and "Lost Wax" answers its own question—"What make you whole?" [sic] with "Love. My love." Williams's long, touchy-feely personal narratives are particularly limp: "The Poet" profiles a self-styled poet from the "years of hippiedom" who scares the guilt-ridden Williams; and "King"—a knee-jerk narrative about crying at a Martin Luther King memorial—is a self-serving gush about feeling his "black friend's" pain. Williams should stick to poems like "InvisibleMending," a lovely portrait of three seamstresses working in a storefront window, seen as angels of "forgiveness and repair." It's hard to find a whole lot to enjoy in a poet who moans: "The agonizing plasma consciousness can be."

The Boston Book Review
Formally, these new poems mark a departure. Underneath, though, they are driven by the familiar Williams sensibility: intelligent, restless . . . always wanting to know and understand more . . . [an] excellent book.

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Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.46(w) x 9.57(h) x 0.52(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


That astonishing thing that happens when you crack a needle-awl into a
        block of ice:
the way a perfect section through it crazes into gleaming fault-lines,
        fractures, facets;
dazzling silvery deltas that in one too-quick-to-capture instant madly
        complicate the cosmos of its innards.
Radiant now with spines and spikes, aggressive barbs of glittering light, a
        treasure hoard of light,
when you stab it again it comes apart in nearly equal segments, both
        faces grainy, gnawed at, dull.

An icehouse was a dark, low place of raw, unpainted wood,
always dank and black with melting ice.
There was sawdust and sawdust's tantalizing, half-sweet odor, which, so
        cold, seemed to pierce directly to the brain.
You'd step onto a low-roofed porch, someone would materialize,
take up great tongs and with precise, placating movements like a lion-tamer's
        slide an ice-block from its row.

Take the awl yourself now, thrust, and when the block splits do it again,
        yet again;
watch itdisassemble into smaller fragments, crystal after fissured crystal.
Or if not the puncturing pick, try to make a metaphor, like Kafka's
        frozen sea within:
take into your arms the cake of actual ice, make a figure of its ponderous
of how its quickly wetting chill against your breast would frighten you
        and make you let it drop.

Imagine how even if it shattered and began to liquefy
the hope would still remain that if you quickly gathered up the slithery,
        perversely skittish chips,
they might be refrozen and the mass reconstituted, with precious little of
        its brilliance lost,
just this lucent shimmer on the rough, raised grain of water-rotten floor,
just this single drop, as sweet and warm as blood, evaporating on your


Stalled an hour beside a row of abandoned, graffiti-stricken factories,
the person behind me talking the whole while on his portable phone,
every word irritatingly distinct, impossible to think of anything else,
I feel trapped, look out and see a young hare moving through the sooty
just as I catch sight of him, he turns with a start to face us, and freezes.

Sleek, clean, his flesh firm in his fine-grained fur, he's very endearing;
he reminds me of the smallest children on their way to school in our
their slouchy, unself-conscious grace, the urge you feel to share their
then my mind plays that trick of trying to go back into its wilder part,
to let the creature know my admiration, and have him acknowledge me.

All the while we're there, I long almost painfully out to him,
as though some mystery inhabited him, some semblance of the sacred,
but if he senses me he disregards me, and when we begin to move
he still waits on the black ballast gravel, ears and whiskers working,
to be sure we're good and gone before he continues his errand.

The train hurtles along, towns blur by, the voice behind me hammers
it's stifling here but in the fields the grasses are stiff and white with
Imagine being out there alone, shivers of dread thrilling through you,
those burnished rails before you, around you a silence, immense,
only now beginning to wane, in a lift of wind, the deafening creaking of
        a bough.

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