Showing 1 - 4 of 4 annotations associated with Williams, C. K. (Charles Kenneth)
- Coulehan, Jack
Summary:The poet C. K. Williams enters the room where his father has just died and exclaims to the corpse, "What a war we had!" (p. 1) Soon thereafter, his mother comes into the room and quietly lies down beside her dead husband, their bodies close but not touching. Thus begins Williams's memoir about his parents' deaths and his grieving. In the process of working through his grief, the poet finally comes to "see" his parents and to understand the nature of his feelings toward them and their feelings toward each other.
"You used to be such a nice man," he remembers his mother once telling his father. Indeed, when Williams was a child (and the family poor), his father was engaged and attentive. But as he evolved into a very successful businessman, he emotionally withdrew from the family. Throughout Williams's adult life, he and his father were alienated, their interactions consisting of verbal warfare, made much worse by the young man's choice of profession (writing poetry). It was only after the father had his first "stroke" (indicating brain metastases) that he was able to declare a truce. At one point he said, bemusedly, to his son, "We were kids together, you and I" (p. 37). However, during this truce, Williams's father, unable to bear his suffering, repeatedly pleaded with his son to help him end his life, an act that Williams was unable to perform.
Williams remembers whispering "I love you," when he first viewed his mother's corpse. Yet during life he saw her as a "completely and unquestioningly self-centered" woman (p. 58) whose life was filled with constant anxiety that she wouldn't get enough out of life, or that she'd lose what she had. She was a careless mother and a fretful and vain person. Yet there was more than that. Williams connects with his mother as a suffering person during her final illness: "Someday I'll thank her for how much of herself she risked to have divided herself when she was so young, so unprepared, so vulnerable, into the double creature she and I were...and the linked beings we always would be." (p. 166)
- Ratzan, Richard M.
This poem is in the form of a villanelle, a French verse form derived from an Italian folk song of the late 15th-early 17th Centuries. Originally reserved for pastoral subjects, modern poets from W. H. Auden ("Time Will Say Nothing") to Dylan Thomas (Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night) have employed it for more somber subjects.
The strict definition of a villanelle adheres to the following pattern: five tercets followed by a quatrain with the rhyming scheme of a1ba2 aba1 aba2 aba1 aba2 aba1a2. Williams's "Villanelle," like Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night," obeys this convention while relating a bereaved, haunted mother's lament over her dead daughter.
- Coulehan, Jack
The poet grieves over his mother's death, "Gone now, after the days of desperate, unconscious gasping, the reflexive staying alive . . . . " He records the details of her dying, the details of his pain. He wonderingly asks himself, "Is this grief?" upon realizing that he is not making a scene, nor crying, nor wishing to follow her in death.
He realizes, though, that his grief is not just for his 80 year old mother who died in bed with make-up on her face, but for his mother-in-law's face and all women's faces and "the faces of all human beings, our own faces telling us so much and no more, / offering pain to all who behold them . . . . " His grief is grief for the earth, the flesh, the body, the mind, "and grief for the moment, its partial beauties, its imperfect affections, all severed, all torn."
Summary:A wonderful poem about an old, dying man recognizing he is dying before any one else in the family will admit it. He wants them to help him die--a kind of family consensus on euthanasia, which he seems to control. After much family discussion, they agree to help him by giving him enough pills to "put him to sleep." He jokes with his family as they assist his dying: "On the day it would happen, the old man would be funny again: wolfing down handfuls of pills, 'I know this'll upset my stomach,' he'd say."