Charles Kenneth Williams is an American poet who started writing poetry at 19, after taking only his required English classes at University of Pennsylvania. He began his career as a poet in the early 1960s. He has published nine books of poetry, beginning with Lies in 1969. Since that time, he has been steadily building his reputation as an innovative and intense poet. Winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for Repair, followed by the National Book Award in 2003 for The Singing, solidified his place as one of the most esteemed living American poets.
Williams is known for his daring formal style, marrying perceptive everyday observations to lines so long that they defy the conventions of lyric poetry. His verbose poems often border on the prosaic, inspiring critics to compare them to Walt Whitman's. The Singing, Williams' most recent collection, explores topics surrounding aging: the loss of loved ones, the love of grandchildren, and the struggle to retain memories of childhood even while dealing with the complexity of current events. Williams began his career as a strong anti-war writer, and in a recent profile in The New York Times stated that he still feels pulled in that direction: "It is always there, but it is more subliminal and is no longer on the surface. I do not want to be dogmatic."
He teaches in the creative writing program at Princeton University, and divides his time between Princeton and Paris.
Question: What challenges would Obama face as president?
C. K. Williams: Oh, he’s inheriting an incredible mess. The last eight years have been-- have put America in such jeopardy in so many ways, the fact of these trillions of dollars of debt we have now. That’s going to be a huge burden to arrive with, the fact that global warming has-- nothing has been done about it. Even McCain now says he’s-- that he thinks something has to be done about it. Lord knows he changes his mind so often we don’t know how long that will stay but-- and the Iraq war of course is a huge issue and the economy, unemployment, immigration. The person who-- It’s not a job one should really want. These are really incredible issues. I think from what I’ve seen of him his basic intelligence will allow him to assemble a team-- basically a President is a team; it’s hardly a single person-- will allow him to assemble people to help begin those problems. And the fact that he’s such an inspired orator, which some people almost hold against him, I think is very, very crucial at this time, that someone will be able to speak and convince people what they have to do, convince the country, convince them that there’s hope first of all. America has never apparently in all the polls expressed so much of a lack of hope in anything, and I think the fact that he is that inspiring could be very, very important- will be very- assuming he wins will be very important.