The College was honored to have critically acclaimed poet and Pulitzer Prize winner, C.K. Williams, recite a reading as part of INK’s Visiting Writers Series on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 29.
Almost all of the seats were filled with the excited bodies of students and various faculty members inside the library auditorium. The small space was so crowded that many had to resort to standing or sitting on the ground just to be in the presence of the famous poet.
Professor Michael Robertson of the English department formally introduced Williams. Robertson composed a colorful speech comparing Williams to Shakespeare, which set the stage for the event, figuratively and literally.
The introduction served as a creatively constructed overview for those not familiar with Williams’s work.
Once Williams graced the podium, he said, “Shakespeare is one of those poets that poets never mention.” Williams’s comment triggered handfuls of chuckles from the audience due to the probable, yet ironic, truth of his words.
The first poem Williams read was titled “My Mother’s Lips,” and describes how he became inspired to write poetry as a child. The poem, taken from his 1983 collection “Tar,” reminded Williams of actor James Franco who is an aspiring poet.
Williams said that Franco’s favorite book of poetry is “Tar.” Franco decided to create a film based on poems within Williams’s collection. Franco himself will be one of the actors playing a young Williams along with Henry Hopper, who is the son of the late Dennis Hopper.
“The Neighbor” was the next poem Williams read aloud, which details the story of a first love.
The poem was published in The New Yorker about 50 years ago and Williams informed the audience that he received a letter from a woman claiming that she was the individual being described in the poem. Williams joked, “But my wife wouldn’t let me open the letter,” and the audience erupted with laughter in return.
Ashlee Cain, sophomore creative writing major, was one of the students from the writing communities class involved in the organization of the event.
When asked about what aspect of Williams’s poetic style she enjoyed most, she said, “I love how his poetry is so uncensored, dark and biting.”
The specific qualities Cain mentioned certainly shined through Williams’s reading “Back” and “Bianca Burning,” both of which are two of his more risqué poems.
Williams also took the time to read his poem “The Singing,” from his 2003 collection of the same name. The poem depicts the strange encounter between the narrator, possibly Williams, and a mysterious young man.
Through his overall articulate diction, yet unpretentious syntax, one can imagine having a casual hot cup of coffee with Williams when experiencing his poetry.
Amy Chen, sophomore English major with a concentration in women’s and gender studies, is also an admirer of Williams’s work.
When it comes to emulating a particular aspect of Williams’s technique in her own poetry, she said, “Like him, I would love to be able to create a happy medium between prose and poetry.” Although Williams states that his poetry is not exactly prose, he asserts that he incorporates the rhythmical movement of prose in his writings.
The reading concluded with a reception and a long line en route towards a book signing by Williams: a true poetic rock star.