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2 Burnside Poetry- A to Z

Repair: Poems


Repair: Poems Cover

ISBN13: 9780374527068
ISBN10: 0374527067
Condition: Standard
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she says, September 20, 2011 (view all comments by she says)
This collection reminds us why poetry matters. Williams goes after the big questions, looks and then looks some more, so that each observation touches down at the epicenter of what is deeply relevant to our human lives. These deceptively simple poems---with their clarity, compassion and grace---are powerful. They can shake you to your bones or lift you up. Sometimes they do both. There is a deep, unflinching engagement with and reverence for the mysterious ways that life unfolds and finally closes. I am grateful for these poems.

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lbrowne87, December 10, 2006 (view all comments by lbrowne87)
Williams? writing in Repair is unique and strangely philosophical. Recurring themes include observation, human nature, and the material world vs. the natural world. Structurally, as a whole, his poems are linear and meditative. The stanzas are mostly uniform and all the same length for each poem. I believe that this jumped off the page at me because I?ve found that most poets don?t ?limit? themselves by making each stanza of their poem a specific number of lines. ?Bone? is the only poem from Repair that has uneven stanza breaks and is therefore significant in conveying Williams? style and preferred art form.
I found ?Bone? to be one of the most interesting poems in the book, my personal favorite. Williams? reason for creating the poem with this form could be the subject matter?s lack of symmetry and utter grotesqueness. The first line begins with ?An erratic, complicated shape,? possibly a hint for the reader, considering the definition of ?erratic? is ?eccentric, having no certain or definite course, wandering, not fixed?. The structure of the poem is undoubtedly limitless, figuratively and metaphorically. Road kill is not exactly one of the most popular topics in poetry these days. It may be difficult to find such a thing beautiful enough to write about. However, Williams finds beauty in the possible questions that could arise in an observer?s mind (maybe not the average person?s mind) and the environment surrounding the dead animal on the pavement. That is the most ironic part about this poem. Williams is describing this blackened animal carcass, still being eaten away at by miniscule creatures. He sees the pointlessness of the situation; the fact that these creatures are spending most of their short lives gnawing at this dead animal, not benefiting anything but themselves in the short run. Negativity or regret are feelings unknown to them. They live for this moment, savor this moment. How are we as humans to relate? We really can?t, until we read the last stanza, which depicts the scene of an intrigued child wanting to keep the animal carcass and the child?s mother yelling at him/her to put down the filthy thing. It?s a bit of comic relief. The reader is so absorbed by the vivid and semi-vile imagery in the first three stanzas that it comes as a shock to have such a surprising contrast appear at the end. This imagery is humorous, as opposed to undesirable. However, this stanza connects the natural world to the human world. As of now, humans are the ones triumphing over other life forms. It?s survival of the fittest and nature has always lost. We have destroyed the land, eaten the animals, and devalued nature, demonstrating our carelessness. This fact is implied in the line, ?How far beneath the asphalt, sewers, subways, mains and conduits is the / living earth to which at last they?ll once again descend?? We have covered the earth with our inventions and haven?t given it a second thought. I know that these thoughts don?t run through my mind when I see road kill, but apparently they cross Williams? mind.
As one can see, ?Bone? is unmistakably sui generis. It represents numerous thoughts and questions on human nature and nature in general, which are common themes in Williams? poetry. Its structure implies the importance of its subject matter, which includes a plethora of different ideas. I believe the poem shows Williams? novel train of thought, one probably underestimated, in addition to his true talent as a writer. He got me thinking deeply about road kill, so other readers must have had peculiar responses to his poetry as well, which allows me to appreciate Repair even more.
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poetry12, December 9, 2006 (view all comments by poetry12)
C.K. Williams book Repair was full of poems of both intriguing style and content. The poems ranged from relaxing, to challenging, to tragic and even amusing. Williams? style was distinctly different from other poets we?ve read this year, and the messages in his poems shared some similarities with the poems of Sam Taylor and Adrienne Rich, but also provided some contrast. While I didn?t feel that there were really any main themes running through all the poems in the book, this body of work was an interesting read and a look at a different type of poetry.
One thing that was interesting about this book was the titles Williams chose for his poems. Almost all of the titles were one word, and usually very simple. For me, this had a interesting effect on the way I read the poem. Titles such as ?House,? or ?King,? or ?Ice? gave a basic context for the poem, but went no further. I found myself reading the poems, trying to connect their content to the title. I found that this approach to reading the poems was effective in focusing my attention to what Williams was trying to get across with the poems, and it was a good way of reading them. With some of the other poetry we have read, I have found the titles confusing and at times too narrowly focused, therefore not having the same effect. Williams? titles in this book narrowed my thinking enough to clarify my thinking going into a poem, but they left the poems open enough for interpretation and did not try to make obscure references that took away from comprehension. The poem ?House? was a good example of this. Reading the title directed my mindset as I read the poem, and it helped to create strong images as I read lines like, ?Down to the scabrous plaster, down to the lining bricks with mortar squashed joints.? The poem, ?Naked? also had an interesting relationship to its title. There were parts of the poem in which the content?s relation to the title was fairly obvious, like, ?So, naked under the low lintel, an unaffrightening darkness before you.? It also made me think of how the poem as a whole, and less obvious segments, could relate to the title. It helped in thinking about all aspects of the poem and looking deeper into the meaning, which was the case with many of the poems in the book.
One poem that really caught my attention was ?King.? One thing I noticed about the poem was that it was written in more of a prose-like language than most of the other poems. This poem was almost a story, like a narrative description of an event or a memory. In the case of this poem, the event was very powerful and in itself very poetic, which is perhaps a reason Williams felt the language used to describe didn?t need to be especially poetic. Also, this poem, unlike the rest, was segmented, containing five sections. The five sections, united under the title of ?King,? explored different aspects and viewpoints of racial tension. It was fitting that King, in reference to Martin Luther King, Jr. was the title that unified the segments, as it reflected the unifying effect Martin Luther King had during the civil rights movement and his stature at the center of controversy. The first section set the stage for the poem, describing a memory of a black man walking to MLK?s memorial service and being impeded by the threat of white police officers. The poem then goes on in section 2 to describe the racial injustice that was prevalent at the time by discussing specific instances, such as, ?you?d be raped, gang-raped, and no one would dare say a thing.? Section 3 then returns to the memory and explores the unspoken emotional tensions that would have occurred during an encounter between the black man walking to the service and the white police, the narrative switching between the whites? thoughts and emotions, and those of the black man. A particularly powerful line in this sequence was,
sready to break their fists on you, maim or kill you so that you?d understand:
that their world would prevail, that authority, power, and absolute physical coercion
with no ethical dimension whatsoever must and will precede all and resolve all
This is an evocative description of the emotions that would have transpired in the situation being discussed. It encompassed the viewpoint of the white racists and shed light on how these views manifested themselves during the civil rights movement. Section 4 looks at how the black man would have reacted to the intimidation, and raises questions about motives and consequences. It closes with a powerful statement in italics about how whites could never truly understand the oppression that blacks felt, and that it was insulting when they tried. Finally, section 5 describes the scene at the memorial service and comments on the absence of tension there, even though both whites and blacks were present, which provided a stark contrast to previous section in which the tension was very evident. ?If there were tensions, they were constrained by our shared grief; we held hands.? This was a great image and helped describe both the sadness and the peace of the moment. I read in a C.K. Williams interview that he has been writing this poem for thirty years, struggling with how to deal with the subject. It is interesting to see which details survived in the poem over time and how the message of the poem may have been shaped by the passage of time. One way it definitely did affect the poem was how it was set in the past; in memory. One line in section 5 seemed to make this explicit, ?A black man, a white man, three decades of history, of remembering and forgetting.? Thinking of the poem in this sense had a deepening effect on my reading of it. I thought the structure and the writing style were very effective in achieving Williams? intent for the poem.
Another poem in which I thought the formatting style was effective was ?Owen: Seven Days.? In this poem, Williams? thoughts are arranged into short, three line segments. Also, in contrast to most of the lineation in the book, the lines were very short. This formatting seemed to reflect the subject of the poem, which explored the thoughts of and surrounding a newborn. The short stanzas were an excellent way to reflect the idea of simplicity and conciseness. This worked especially because of the contrast to Williams? usual formatting. This poem was a distinct deviation from the others in terms of format, which begged attention and raised questions about its intent. In this way, Williams was able to create a rich texture in the poem, simply by the arrangement of the words, apart from the words themselves. I found this to be a particularly effective tool and one that added a great deal to the poem, however, I also noted that without the context of the other poems in the book, the formatting would not have been significant. It was interesting to consider how the poems interact to add to each others? meaning.
While this book didn?t seem as theme based as the previous books we?ve read, I found it to be a coherent body of work in terms of style and emotional content. Williams? style was enjoyable to read and I took a lot from it that I will try to incorporate what I perceived to be his approach to channeling his passions into his poetry into my own work.
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skp5n, December 6, 2006 (view all comments by skp5n)
Williams? collection of poetry entitled Repair is primarily based on language and imagery. He creates lyrical snapshots in each of his poems, most of which describe the brokenness of mankind. Williams describes two ways in which man, specifically himself, is broken.
Williams opens with the poems ?Ice? and ?The Train,? which set the tone and introduce the main themes of the remaining poems. ?Ice? introduces two central themes: brokenness and the desire to repair that which has been broken. In ?Ice,? Williams tackles these subjects specifically, speaking only about the physical breaking, and wish to repair, of ice. ?The Train? also introduces two themes: Williams? desire to be an animal and his inability to connect with neither human nor creature. The poetic construction of a scene seen from a train is common, and Williams uses the physical separation between the speaker and the rabbit, inherent in such a scene, to also point out an emotional separation. ?The Train? also shows that the speaker?s interactions with his human peers are equally disconnected. The speaker is not alone in the car; since he describes an obnoxious man on a cell phone behind him, and yet he does not try to converse with his fellow humans; surrounded by people he feels ?trapped.? For refuge, he looks out towards the animal world. Williams uses a few images of animals throughout the collection, and reflects on how he wishes that he was more like them: ?I didn?t know if I wanted to break [the horse] or be him? (from ?Gas?). In such poems when Williams uses animal characters, the animals are found in grimy industrial settings: the rabbit of ?the Train? was in the rubble before abandoned factories and the crow of ?Shock? was in a scrap yard. Williams seems to admire such animals precisely because they can survive in the man-made world, and perhaps Williams feels that he cannot.
Another central theme, not as explicitly addressed in the first two poems, is William?s inability to be fully intimate with the ones that he is closest to. In two poems, ?Archetypes? and ?The Dress,? he focuses on two important women in his life, his lover and his mother, respectively, and how he does not truly know either of them. In ?Archetypes,? Williams describes a scene in which he is in bed with his lover, and she has an episode in her sleep, snarling and crouching, and then returns to the woman he knows, murmuring ?Sleep, love? when he looks at her. He distinguishes between the two types of intimacy in ?Archetypes,? as well as in ?Biopsy?: two people can share the good things in life, and love each other passionately, but they cannot share the fears and the pain; it is impossible for two people to truly know everything about each other. Williams continues this theme in ?the Dress,? in which he describes his mother and the housedresses she wore during his childhood. In ?the Dress,? and in ?The Cup,? Williams expresses his feeling of distance from his mother, and, ultimately, the entire female gender: ?it was those dresses that made women so unknowable and forbidding,/ adepts of enigmas to which men could have no access, and boys no conception? (from ?the Dress?).
While William?s poems are predominately about the wounds of life, he offers some insight towards a means of mending, of repair, in poems such as ?Lost Wax,? ?The Dance,? ?Tender,? and ?Space.? Williams offers two solutions to be found in life, which may make the damages from living more endurable: love and knowing one will eventually die. In ?Lost Wax,? Williams explicitly states the powers of love: ?What might heal you? Love./ What make you whole? Love.? ?Tender? and ?Space? both speak about the comfort in knowing that one will eventually die. The comfort is not in knowing, or reveling in the fact that the suffering will all be over soon, but in the ability it gives one to appreciate the beautiful things while one still can:
I wonder if this is what the last, indivisible instant
before death might be, before the absolutely unluminous (sic) absence.
To open one?s tangible eyes just then, as I do now: light, shapes, color! Close again; darkness without end, but wait, still glow, still sentience:
from ?Space?
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Product Details

Williams, C. K.
Farrar Straus Giroux
Williams, C. K.
New York
American - General
Poetry (poetic works by one author)
Single Author / American
Poetry-A to Z
Edition Number:
1st pbk. ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.5 x 5.5 x 0.191 in

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Repair: Poems Used Trade Paper
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Product details 80 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374527068 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
Nominated for the National Book Award--The eighth book by one of our greatest poets

"Always, "These gigantic inconceivables."

Always, "What will have been done to me?"

And so we don our mental armor,

flex, thrill, pay the strict attention we always knew we should.

A violent alertness, the muscularity of risk,

though still the secret inward cry: What else, what more?"

--from "Risk"

Repair is body work in C. K. Williams's sensual poems, but it is also an imaginative treatment of the consternations that interrupt life's easy narrative. National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Williams keeps the self in repair despite love, death, social disorder, and the secrets that separate and join intimates. These forty poems experiment with form but maintain what Alan Williamson has heralded Williams for having so steadily developed from French influences: "the poetry of the sentence."

Repair is a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Poetry and the winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

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