CK Williams, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet known for his long, conversational lines of verse that brought frequent comparisons to Walt Whitman, has died at age 78.
Williams was an impassioned observer of war, alienation and the cancer that eventually took his life on Sunday at his home in Hopewell. His death was confirmed Monday by author Joyce Carol Oates, a close friend and former colleague at Princeton University.
Williams won the poetry Pulitzer in 2000 for ”Repair” and the National Book Award for his 2003 work ”The Singing.” He also was a translator of Greek drama and an author of the memoir ”Misgivings.” A new Williams book, ”Selected Later Poems,” is scheduled to come out Tuesday.
According to Farrar, Straus & Giroux president and publisher Jonathan Galassi, Williams had completed another new poetry collection, ”Falling Ill,” just before his death. No publication date for that has been set.
Charles Kenneth Williams was born in Newark, briefly attended Bucknell University and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where architect Louis Kahn was an early mentor. His first collection, ”Lies,” was published in 1969 and quickly established him as a poet of powerful range and language.
Over the next half-century, he would deplore violence and cruelty, wonder at the distances between even the closest companions and unnerve himself by looking into a mirror and seeing a face too much like his father’s.
”Cancer” was one of his most intimate and angriest poems. He invoked ”the surgeon’s blade slicing the fat of my gut” and cursed the loss of Bob Marley and Humphrey Bogart and such peers as Allen Ginsberg and Ted Hughes:
… what can you do,
with everyone plucked out of your life except laugh?
Or not laugh, not every day, but not cry either, or maybe
a little, maybe cry just a little, a little.
Williams was married twice, most recently to Catherine Mauger. He had two children, one from each marriage.