National Book Awards Acceptance Speeches

C.K. Williams, Winner of the 2003 POETRY AWARD for The Singing

C.K. WilliamS:

Well, since my wife isn't here, I thought instead I'd read a poem. When one has so many ears listening, one should take advantage of it. So this is a poem called "Doves".

So much crap in my head,
So many rubbishy facts,
So many half-baked
theories and opinions,
so many public figures
I care nothing about
but who stick like pitch;
So much political swill.
So much crap, Yet
so much I don't know
and would dearly like to:
I recognize nearly none
of the bird songs of dawn-
All I'm sure of is
the maddening who,
who-who of the doves.

And I don't have half
the names of the flowers
and trees, and still less
of humankind's, myths,
the benevolent ones,
from the days before ours;
water-plashed wastes,
radiant intercessions.

So few poems entire,
such a meager handful
of precise recollections of paintings:
detritus instead, junk,
numbers I should long ago
have erased, inane
"information," I'll doubtlessly
take to me to the grave.

So much crap, and yet,
now, morning, that first
sapphire dome of glow,
the glow! The first sounds
of being awake, the sounds!-
a wind whispering, but even
trucks clanking past,
even the idiot doves.

And within me, along
with the garbage, faces, faces
and voices, so many
lives woven into mine,
such improbable quantities
of memory; so much already
forgotten, lost, pruned away-
The doves though, the doves!

Thank you.

C.K. Williams, Photo Credit: R. Platzer/Twin Images

Bruce Weigl, Photo credit: Melanie Einzig