cover image Invisible Mending

Invisible Mending

C.K. Williams. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-374-60839-2

This remarkable volume gathers essential work from Williams (1936–2015; Falling Ill), highlighting his ranging thought and moral intensity as well as his transformations as a poet. In the introduction, Alan Shapiro describes how Williams’s shift to long lines in his later work allowed the poet to expand his ethical concerns into new territory: “In his hands, the long line itself becomes a remarkably flexible instrument, accommodating almost any kind of subject or experience.” Shorter, imagistic lines of early poems—“The twilight rots./ Over the greasy bridges and factories,/ it dissolves/ and the clouds swamp in its rose/ to nothing”—give way to Williams’s characteristic longer lines as he continues to search for answers that don’t easily come, as in this haunting realization from “The Shade”: “If this were the last morning of the world, if time had finally moved inside us and erupted/... I think I’d still be here,/ afraid or not enough afraid, silently howling the names of death over the grass and asphalt.” In “The World,” Williams’s late voice retains his concern for truth but trades anxiety for awe: “reality has put itself so solidly before me/ there’s little need for mystery... Except for us, for how we take the world/ to us, and make it more, more than we are, more even than itself.” Sensitive and humane, this dazzles. (Mar.)