C.K. Williams, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and author of ten books, spoke at 7:30 p.m. yesterday in Clark Lounge. His talk was a part of Ithaca College’s Distinguished Visiting Writers Series.
Williams read ten of his poems, including some new pieces that will be published in his book “Wait,” due on the book stands this April.
His poems include many references to other works, such as Andy Warhol’s “Car Crash” paintings and Albert Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus.” Williams made sure that his audience were aware of his references, at times even interrupting himself once he had started reading to explain an allusion. Topics that Williams brought up in his poems included the Iraq War, suicide and sex.
“We’re going to sort of follow some of my sexual adventures,” Williams said before launching into a poem titled “Wood.”
Upon hearing laughs from the audience when he announced the title, Williams said, “I don’t know why everyone’s laughing … did it become dirty in that context?”
One of the newer poems he shared, “Exhaust,” was written just a few weeks ago, he said. He shared it with a friend, an elderly man, who enjoyed it. The man passed away recently, and Williams was asked to share the poem at the man’s memorial service. The poem itself refers to death — specifically death by car accident.
At one point, Williams read off the names of famous people who died in car accidents, such as the artist Jackson Pollack and the writer Anne Sexton, a friend of Williams’.
“[It’s] nothing like the poems that are usually read at memorial services,” Williams said.
Cory Brown, associate professor of writing at the college, said it was nice to hear the poet’s voice.
“I’ve been reading his work,” Brown said. “I read his memoir [and] most of his collected works. I just kind of immersed myself with it. It was nice to match the voice with the [work].”
Sophomore Catherine Nuwer said she was unfamiliar with Williams’ work before going to hear him speak.
“Hearing him speak was really beautiful,” she said. “The way he speaks, it really touches on the beauty of existentialism.”