Sigh-sound of lament for C. K. Williams

C.K. Williams has died at 78.

I heard Williams read at Newcastle University in 2008, and his presence as much as his poetry evoked contained force, passion, love for the world. He was an intellectual; he asked questions about what it is to live. And he was a true poet; he pitched his being into words.

Here is my favourite Williams poem in full:

I hate how this unsummoned sigh-sound, sob-sound,
not sound really, feeling, sigh-feeling, sob-feeling,
keeps rising in me, rasping in me, not in its old disguise
as nostalgia, sweet crazed call of the blackbird;
not as remembrance, grief for so many gone,
nor either that other tangle of recall, regret
for unredeemed wrongs, errors, omissions,
petrified roots too deep to ever excise;
a mingling rather, a melding, inextricable mesh
of delight in astonishing being, of being in being,
with a fear of and fear for I can barely think what,
not non-existence, of self, loved ones, love;
not even war, fuck war, sighing for war,
sobbing for war, for no war, peace, surcease;
more than all that, some ground-sound, ground-note,
sown in us now, that swells in us, all of us,
echo of love we had, have, for world, for our world,
on which we seem finally mere swarm, mere deluge,
mere matter self-altered to tumult, to noise,
cacophonous blitz of destruction, despoilment,
din from which every emotion henceforth emerges,
and into which falters, slides, sinks, and subsides:
sigh-sound of lament, of remorse; sob-sound of rue,
of, still, always, ever sadder and sadder sad joy.

The Night Stages

gap-of-dunloeI reviewed Jane Urquhart’s new novel, The Night Stages, for the Winnipeg Free Press this weekend (read the review here).

In preparation for writing the review I read a few interviews with Urquhart, such as this one she did for January magazine years ago. “I always find that I have to live for some length of time in the landscapes that I’m using in my novels,” Urquhart says in the interview. (Here’s another interview  Urquhart did more recently with Canada Writes).

The Night Stages is set in Ireland’s County Kerry. It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful place to live and write. Possibly trumps even Winnipeg.


Then the king in his great-heartedness unclasped

the collar of gold from his neck and gave it

to the young thane, telling him to use

it and the war shirt and the gilded helmet well.

“You are the last of us, the only one left

of the Waegmundings. Fate swept us away,

sent my whole brave high-born clan

to their final doom. Now I must follow them.”

That was the warrior’s last word.

He had no more to confide. The furious heat

of the pyre would assail him. His soul fled from his breast

to its destined place among the steadfast ones.

Beowulf, tr. Seamus Heaney, for Good Friday.