The Vigil

Overview

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. ...

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The Vigil: Poems

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Overview

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."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
A line of two-dozen syllables is, for Williams (A Dream of Mind, 1992), small potatoes. His stanzas extend to and from the book spine like knobby, elongated hands grabbing for God, for relief from pain and for love. A menagerie of woeful lives is explored, including those of a retarded woman, a metaphor-laden locust and a stroke victim. Williams wants to get miserable along with his subjects but continually finds himself too shell-shocked to be a player. In "Hawk," his response to a dying bird reminds him of his father's dying: "I was frightened then, too; then, too, something was asked and I wasn't who I wanted to be./ How seldom I am, how much more often this self-sundering doubt, this bewildering contending." He writes that a lover's pain "startled, then bored, then repelled" him, that as his mother was dying there was "Grief for my own eyes that try to seek truth, even of pain, of grief, but find only approximation." The real heart of Williams is that he fears he might just be heartless. This consternation makes him eminently appealing. However, one gets the feeling Williams wouldn't mind being pitied, even if he is a fool for love, and his wife speaks French; even if, as this work reflects, he plumbs a life that is relatively tragedy-free.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A line of two-dozen syllables is, for Williams (A Dream of Mind, 1992), small potatoes. His stanzas extend to and from the book spine like knobby, elongated hands grabbing for God, for relief from pain and for love. A menagerie of woeful lives is explored, including those of a retarded woman, a metaphor-laden locust and a stroke victim. Williams wants to get miserable along with his subjects but continually finds himself too shell-shocked to be a player. In "Hawk," his response to a dying bird reminds him of his father's dying: "I was frightened then, too; then, too, something was asked and I wasn't who I wanted to be./ How seldom I am, how much more often this self-sundering doubt, this bewildering contending." He writes that a lover's pain "startled, then bored, then repelled" him, that as his mother was dying there was "Grief for my own eyes that try to seek truth, even of pain, of grief, but find only approximation." The real heart of Williams is that he fears he might just be heartless. This consternation makes him eminently appealing. However, one gets the feeling Williams wouldn't mind being pitied, even if he is a fool for love, and his wife speaks French; even if, as this work reflects, he plumbs a life that is relatively tragedy-free. (Dec.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374226534
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 12/1/1996
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.59 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

C. K. Williams was born in Newark in 1936. He won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Repair. Some other titles include Tar, The Vigil, and Flesh and Blood. He teaches at Princeton.

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