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Incongruous Light

Two poets illuminate their separate worlds.

Jun 27, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 39 • By WYATT PRUNTY
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A neighbor was saying.

I sat in the shade after she left

Mulling that one over.

Soon Simic is “hopped over” by a toad that has found him harmless, as for a moment at least the beautiful and the unexpected join in the shade of Simic mulling.

In “Assumptions,” Williams begins, there is an entity, vast, omnipotent but immaterial, inaccessible to / all human sense save hearing. And, he concludes, all this will continue, go on and on, the same formulations, same / unfaltering faulty logic. The way we will go on is by a 

claim of truth extracted from the tricks of good or bad, yes and no, 

existence, nonexistence, 

these binomial mental knots we suffer and destroy for, and which go on 

and on, on and on and on. 

Williams, too, will mull things over, though he acknowledges the limits to “mulling.” What Williams presses, however, is the value of such contemplation. That is the way we attend to others, and such attendance forms a counterbalance to time. This is the means by which Williams is able to say how “happy” he is, and how much he loves his life, the chopping and slashing and all. The poems in Wait demonstrate many admirable properties. Patience and generosity of spirit head the list.

Charles Simic’s characteristic stance maintains some distance from his subjects, while C. K. Williams stands nearby. Reading these two together is like attending a debate in which differences highlight a shared concern. While the methods for reportage differ, Simic and Williams possess a similar understanding as to the way things go, and the same strong wish that they go well.

Wyatt Prunty, Carlton professor of English at University of the South (Sewanee), is the author, most recently, of The Lover’s Guide to Trapping.

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