“More Even Than Itself,” Daisy Fried on the Work of C.K. Williams

Poetry faculty member Daisy Fried recently reviewed a new collection of C.K. Williams’s poetry for Poetry Foundation. Read an excerpt from “More Even Than Itself” below:

More Even Than Itself

I was doing yoga, restless, as always, in final relaxation pose, when a thought came to me: C. K. Williams’s poems never relax, even in their stillest moments—and that’s one reason I like them so much. Take, for example, “The World,” first published in 2002, in which Williams relaxes, sort of, in a garden in France:

Splendid that I’d revel even more in the butterflies harvesting pollen
from the lavender in my father-in-law’s garden in Normandy
when I bring to mind Francis Ponge’s poem where he transfigures them
to levitating matches, and the flowers they dip into to unwashed cups;
it doesn’t work with lavender, but still, so lovely, matches, cups,
and lovely, too, to be here in the fragrant summer sunlight reading.

In this first of four sestets that make up the poem, a happy man ruminates in a beautiful setting—a song of lavender and pollinators and life. But soon the man retreats to his mind, thence into that of Francis Ponge (whom Williams translated), whereupon the butterflies become tiny conflagrations self-dousing in flowers. It’s a typically startling Ponge metaphor, yoking the fullness of life and its snuffing; Williams won’t stick with it, instead critiquing its accuracy to the present moment. The quibble acts as an escape hatch, from the room of Williams’s mind back into the garden. You believed this a moment of stillness?

Continue reading here: Daisy Fried | Poetry Foundation