C.K. Williams, who has already won a Pulitzer Prize for his poetry, today won the Lilly Prize which is awarded to one U.S. poet annually to represent an extraordinary career’s accomplishments.

A quick glance at the names of all the previous winners of the Lilly Prize reveals some likely Jewlicious poets: Adrienne Rich, Philip Levine, Anthony Hecht, Mona Van Duyn, Hayden Carruth, David Wagoner, John Ashbery, Charles Wright, Donald Hall, A. R. Ammons, Gerald Stern, William Matthews, W. S. Merwin, Maxine Kumin, Carl Dennis, Yusef Komunyakaa, Lisel Mueller, and Linda Pastan.

But then today, C.K. won the Prize, and I thought that it would be nice to mention him here.

C.K. Williams has also won The American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Award, a Pushcart Prize, National Book Award and the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. Did I mention that he’s Jewlicious?

The Princeton Creative Writing professor was born in New Jersey in the ’30s and has had a long and successful career. He came on to the cultural map in the ’60s with his poem, A Day for Anne Frank. His lefty ideals are probably more pronounced in his work than his Jewliciousness, but I think his being Jewish seems to “color” his attitudes and inform them rather than play a headlining role. I’ve included some samples of his work.

Here he speaks of his father’s death:

I’ve often wondered about my father’s soul, about the cosmos in which he dwelt. What were the ultimate grounds of his beliefs, of his day-to-day confrontations with existence? What meaning did life have for him? Did he believe in a real God? How much had being a Jew in a century of Jewish horror affected him? We never spoke about that, or never seriously: surely it would have had to affect him to realize that it was the purest chance that his and his mother’s grandparents had left Poland and Russia when they did, and so it was just as much of a chance that he was still alive at all. If he felt anything like that, though, he kept it to himself, as most Jews of his generation did.

Poem: Biyalistock, or Lvov (you can listen to him as well as read it)

Another poem as he was receiving the National Book Award prize for poetry.

And finally, Tar.

By the way, he is considered a political poet of the civil rights movement and of the American Left, just in case I’m not getting that across. 🙂

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9 Comments

  • I was thinking today about how American Jews have really excelled in literature, despite many of us being brought up in homes where the spoken language could best be described as “Yinglish”.

    Also, I think poet Adrienne Rich is also Jewish. (She’s on your list but not highlighted.)

  • Her father’s Jewish, her mother isn’t, and she doesn’t know what she is! Oh wait, but if the need ever arises, she will wear a Yellow Star.
    To read more on Adrienne Rich and her confusion about her “Jewish Identity” you can read her essay, “Split at the Root: An Essay on Jewish Identity.” But I don’t recommend it because I thought it sucked horribly.

  • Okay…bragging rights>>>>> CK Williams is Jsirpicco’s cousin! So there you have it…wrote a paper on TAR and got an A for it….invited me to a lit party back in the day when jsirpicco was also an up and coming writer (Gordon Lish mean anything to anyone out there? well, maybe it should and maybe it shouldn’t)…

    His father was a nice man – when my father died, he generously paid the rest of my education and then some for a while…eased my mother’s worries and all that…Tall people, too. jsirpicco.blogspot.com!

  • jsirpicco, I still haven’t visited your blog but that is very cool. How about getting your cousin to visit Jewlicious? I wanted to post his poems but didn’t want to violate his copyright.

  • well, like most people doing bragging rights, can’t say I know him very well anymore…it’s been many moons….but Tar is a cool book of poems…even for non-poetry people….

  • No problem, but if you ever do speak to him again, you might mention that being called Jewlicious and getting a post about you puts him in the same league as Arthur Miller, Saul Bellow and Suha Arafat.

  • Lisel Mueller is also Jewish. Her family emigrated to the US to escape the Holocaust when she was a young girl. She’s written about the relatives lost because they didn’t leave.

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