[Wgcp-whc] TODAY: visit by CK Williams

Kuhl, Nancy nancy.kuhl at yale.edu
Fri Oct 25 12:45:48 EDT 2013

Dear Friends,
Just a reminder that we will continue our discussion of C. K. Williams (focusing on his latest collection, Writers Writing Dying) on Friday October 25th from 3 - 5 PM in room 116 of the Whitney Humanities Center. That day, Williams himself will be joining our discussion in person.  All are welcome to attend. Hard copies of the book have come arrived, so if you are planning on attending and didn't yet get a copy of the book or the photocopies, do stop by Room 116 and grab one (they are on the shelves opposite the door and along the window).
 It was a very generative initial discussion of the book that we had on Friday October 11th.  From that discussion, I have drawn a series of questions that I will send to the poet in advance of his visit.  From these, Williams will determine a place to open our discussion.  The questions will be useful prompts for the conversation, but as ever our desire is that the session is free-flowing and organic rather than any formal Q and A.

This should be a terrific engagement with one of the premiere American poets of his generation.

Richard Deming, Group Coordinator

Questions for C. K. Williams for the Yale Poetics Group-

2)   1)You don't always use that very long line, but is has become a sort of signature. Earlier on, it seemed to carry a kind or urgency that couldn't be contained in shorter lines.  In the more recent work, that line slows down and the cadence become almost conversational (and thus conveys a kind of intimacy). How has your sense of what that long line can accommodate changed over time? Has your sense of a tradition of the long line (inherited from Whitman and, to some extent, Ginsberg) changed? Or do you find you draw as much from poetry as prose sentences in creating your sense of a measure.

3) 2)How did you conceive of an audience in Writers Writing Dying? This is asked again with a feeling that the poems are creating a context of intimacy.  If there is conscious desire to establish a context of intimacy, where do the range of predecessors that are mentioned so frequently, both explicitly and implicitly (from Freud to Mark to Nietzsche to Wordsworth, and so on) sit in those terms?  Are they part of an imagined company?   Are they the filters through which all experiences-and perhaps especially the problems of the body and fraught morality-are tried and formed?

4)    3) Tied with the previous question is what you feel the role of allusions and references play in your work.  Is it a way of foregrounding the present as ever being in dialogue with the past?  Or do you see poetry and literature as creating space outside time in which all these figures, through readerly engagements persist through the ages?  And do you then think, as you include references to scenes of reading throughout Writers Writing Dying, about how readers are reading your work as well?

5)    4) It has been said that the work of philosophy is to learn how to die.  Is that as some level what you take to be poetry's relationship to life (and to death)? And throughout Writers Writing Dying (perhaps most poignantly addressed in the poem "Cancer"), one encounters a complex range of emotions-anger, defiance, resignation, acknowledgment, humor-in the face of mortality. Is the ambiguity of poetry able to convey the ambivalences one has towards death?  Is it better suited than other forms of response (fiction, or essays, or philosophy, etc.)?  Or do you have in mind a kind of pedagogical/moral idea that through the poems, one can learn how to accept mortality (one's own, the mortality of loved one's)?
5)   --Looking over your body of  work there is a markedly different sense of the political elements of your poems.  While they are present throughout the work, they are less pronounced in Writers Writing Dying.  Is that because you had a thematic conception of that collection that didn't lend itself to the explicitly political, or has your sense of the interaction of poetry and politics changed?

6) How has your idea of poetry's functions as well as its limitations evolved over time? How has your own sense of your poetics changed?  Is Writers Writing Dying a culmination of this, or does it sit differently in your understanding of your body of work?
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