Letter from Poetry Magazine

C.K. Williams Responds

by C. K. Williams

Actually, it’s not a myth that there was a prevailing mode of poetry in the fifties: there is in every literary age. That of the fifties tended to be for the most part stultifyingly formal, overly intellectual, and sadly removed from the language being spoken in the lives and minds of most people. I know this is true because I was there, it was what I had been exposed to in my education, and what I was haplessly trying to write.

We tend to remember any age by its exceptions and geniuses, but there were dozens and dozens of poets publishing in the early and middle years of the decade, and all but a very few have been forgotten, their work rarely appearing in even the most comprehensive anthologies. And in fact most of the poets Michael Hudson mentions did change their work radically towards the end of the fifties. He’s right in one thing: I did misremember, and shouldn’t have included the early sixties in my statement, because most of the poets we remember now had already arrived at their new styles by then; Lowell, for instance, and Berryman and Plath, as well as W.S. Merwin, Galway Kinnell, James Wright, Robert Bly, Adrienne Rich, and Denise Levertov, among many others.

Originally Published: September 1, 2009

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This prose originally appeared in the September 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2009


Audio Article
 C. K. Williams


Hailed by poet Paul Muldoon in the Times Literary Supplement as “one of the most distinguished poets of his generation,” C.K. Williams created a highly respected body of work, including several collections of original poems, volumes of translations and criticism, and a memoir. Williams was especially known as an original stylist; his characteristic line is extraordinarily long, almost prose-like, and emphasizes characterization . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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