I’ve chosen two more poems by C.K. Williams to share with you. The first – ‘Shame’ – came to mind when I was writing my essay ‘On being Creepy‘.

I was half tempted to end that essay with this poem, it seemed so apposite to the humiliating stigma and destructive nature of that label, that identity.

Note how three concatenations of three adjectives (“odd, unacceptable, out-of-things”, “irrepressible, unselective, incessant” and “creepy, weird, whatever”) define the rhythm and texture of the poem, giving the impression of the poet groping through imprecise language towards a final clear and terrible statement of self-discovery.

shame iii

Normalityshame iii

The speech-marks which enclose the poem intrigue me. They give the impression that the poet is distancing himself from what he’s written.

Is it the poet reporting his own thoughts? or is he reporting someone else’s thoughts? a father’s, a mother’s even? The last two lines makes it clear that these thoughts, or words, are being directed at another person. But who? some imaginary individual? the reader? the poet? Society?

2 thoughts on “Shame and Normality – two poems by C.K. Williams

  1. Amazing poems. “Normality”, especially, is extraordinarily brave. If the quotation marks are supposed to function as a fig leaf, they are about as useful as a fishnet umbrella.

    Not being in general a poetry fan, I must admit I had never heard of Williams. On looking him up in Wikipedia today, I was shocked to see this:

    “Williams died of multiple myeloma on September 20, 2015 at his home in Hopewell, New Jersey.”

    I found myself doing a double take on the date. Presumably, the papers have been full of obits. I must have missed.


    1. >“Williams died of multiple myeloma on September 20, 2015 at his home in Hopewell, New Jersey.”

      Oh, I didn’t know this Tom. That’s sad. He was such a good poet – very human and humane, willing to think, feel and write about frailty, vulnerability and quirkiness.

      Glad you enjoyed “Normality” – there are other poems in “Flesh and Blood” (the collection from which I have drawn my selection of his poems) which hint at a subversive understanding of human nature and of childhood and sexuality. I guess this will be a good time to properly revisit his work.


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