Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Catherine's Laughter - C.K. Williams (Sarabande Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Catherine's Laughter.  C.K. Williams.  Quarternote Chapbook Series #11.  Sarabande Books.  Louisville, Kentucky.  2013.

Every woman should be so lucky as to have an eloquent poet in love with them.  Every man too.

C.K. Williams chapbook Catherine's Laughter might be the sweetest nod to being in love since Eros rained chocolates on Valentine's Day.

But there is no saccharine here, no cloying moment.

Dare I say it — these poems articulate and reflect the happiness of a real, adult, loving, human relationship between two adults who, even after many years have passed together, find all sorts of excuses to be fascinated by one another.

We get to share in Williams joy.


Jessie, my daughter, when she was eight, already the
warm and loving person she still is, said to me once when
Catherine was laughing about something with Jed in the
other room, "Catherine laughs funny, doesn't she?"
     "It's nice, though, isn't it?" I asked her.
     "Oh, yes, that's not what I mean," she replied.
     And Jed, when he was three, and still spoke mostly
French, would sometimes be uproariously amused by an
English word. "Inch," when I said it to him one day, sent
him into hysterics.
     Catherine was in the kitchen right then and when I
went in to get something, she said, "Jed has a funny laugh,
don't you think?"
     "What do you mean?" I asked her, "he has your laugh."
     "Really?" Catherine said, "Well, if you say so."


These prose poems are tender, sweet, never trite and deeply passionate missives to the love of C.K. Williams life, his wife Catherine.

You might think such unabashed declarations of love would be too anxious to be genuine but nothing could be further from the truth.  These poems read with a genuine warmth and kindness that leave the reader feeling both happy and hopeful.


Catherine and I, for some long forgotten reason, have both
been irritable all day, touchy, preoccupied, moody and
gloomy. Dinner is peaceful, though, and when we finish
Catherine asks, "Are we going to make love tonight?"
     I answer, "If I'm talking to you."
     "You don't have to talk," Catherine says.


I'm a big fan of matrimony and know only too well the many pitfalls that checker the path of even the best of unions.  These poems reinforce my best hopes that love can last because true love never ceases to grow.

These poems are a master class.


After dinner, still at the table, I'm writing in my little note-
book, scribbling fast, when Catherine says she'd like to
take a walk. When I tell her I'm busy she takes the empty
dishes into the kitchen, then comes back.
     "Come on, take a walk."
     "I'm writing," I tell her.
     "Take your notebook. You can take your wine, too."
     "Wait just a minute," I say.
     "You need a bigger notebook," Catherine says then, "I'll
buy you a bigger notebook."
     "I don't need a bigger notebook, and don't get me one."
     "That's why I said it," Catherine says, "I just wanted to
hear you say that. Let's go for a walk."
     Finally I give up, give in, we stroll out across the park 
near our house, and come to the pair of gigantic old oaks
Catherine particularly loves. The trunk of each tree is about
five feet across, and they stand close together, leaning a lit-
tle as though making room for one another.
     They're in full-leaved gorgeousness right now, and 
when we get to them Catherine says, "You have to come
in here," and leads me between them.
     "Now close your eyes," she says.
     "Because there are all those branches above us," she
answers, "and beneath us the roots. You have to listen."
     I listen, "But I don't..." I start to object.
     "You have to come stand here every day, then you
will." Catherine answers, not laughing now, "You'll see,
you will."


Optimism in a world where it is wanting, love and the promise of more love.  Reading this book made me happy.  How can you beat that?

C.K. Williams

C. K. Williams has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Ruth Lilly Prize, among other honors.  In 2010 he published the critical study, On Whitman, and a book of poetry, Wait.  In 2012 he published the poetry collections Writers Writing Dying and a book of essays, In Time: Poets, Poems, and the Rest.  He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

C.K. Williams reads "The Singing", from
his Collected Poems (Broadaxe Books)


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