Published: January 25th, 2014
C.K. Williams is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, critic, and translator. He's earned the National Book Critics Circle Award, Los Angeles Times Book Prize, National Book Award, and Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. He has taught at numerous colleges including New York University, Princeton University, University of California, George Mason University, and Boston University.
Howl: What advice do you have for budding writers?
Williams: Read, read, read. Think of writing like music: would you imagine composing music without knowing everything you could about all the music you can find? Writing’s like that.
Howl: Why is poetry the medium of expression you’ve chosen?
Williams: To tell the truth, I don’t remember. I just started writing poems, and when I tried writing prose, I found it so much less exciting that even though the rewards it offered were clearly more tangible, it was sort of boring compared to poetry.
Howl: What is your writing/editing process like?
Williams: I write, or try to write, every day all morning. Most of my writing process is editing, revising, going over what I’ve already attempted to make it more interesting to me.
Howl: Has your writing/editing process changed over time and why?
Williams: It really hasn’t changed much, not since I decided that if I was going to give my life to poetry, I had to give as much time and energy as I could to the craft, the art, the process.
Howl: Where do you see poetry styles heading in the 21st century?
Williams: I think I’m too old to know that. I’m a 20th century poet; I'll leave the future to those younger than me.
Howl: What is the inspiration behind your work?
Williams: Love, anger, frustration, joy, sorrow, pity, concern for the future, anguish for the past.
Howl: How does a writer deal with rejection?
Williams: I tell my students not to keep the rejection slips they’ll inevitable be attacked by. And try not to cry aloud, it’s embarrassing.