C.K. Williams started writing poetry at 19, after taking only his required English classes at University of Pennsylvania. In the 1960s, he began gearing his poems toward social issues, such as the brutality that civil rights activists often faced and his anti-war stance with respect to Vietnam. Over time, although he continued to write about society, his work became more personal. His focus shifted to the intersection of profoundly different lives in crowded urban spaces, using these instances to examine sensitive issues such as race and class.
The subject matter of his work is not its only controversy, and Williams is often compared to Whitman and Ginsberg because of his unusually long lines of verse. Despite his unconventional poetic form, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, among other honors. He also published five works of translation and a psychologically introspective memoir, Misgivings: My Mother, My Father, Myself. Williams died in September 2015.