The public library in our town is a wonderful place for new discoveries – book, movies, music, magazine articles or author events. I love meandering through the place, knowing that, in all likelihood, I will leave with a new treasure. That is exactly what happened on Tuesday, when I discovered this book propped up against the window sill in the children’s section:
I had never heard of the author, C.K. Williams, but the illustrator, Stephen Gammell, was very familiar to me ( Song and Dance Man, My Friend, the Star Finder, Humble Pie, and dozens of others). I picked it up, scanned through, and was instantly entranced. The Nobble, it turns out, is “a creature or an animal or a person or, anyway a something” who lived all alone. Something compels him to journey out, the yearning to “be somebody who didn’t live quite as much alone as he did – you know, in the little octagonal rooms in snowflakes, and in the big tangled places in the wind.” I followed his travels and discoveries not so much because of Gammell’s spectacular illustrations (the original reason I’d picked up the book), but because of the accompanying prose – unusual, lyrical and so imaginative.
“He went past the place under the cliffs where the fish sing, and turned left at the rock that looks like you can climb it to the moon.”
“And they laughed, and zoomed off, both of them, up through the space of the highest note in your favorite song….through the river that runs under the strings in a harp…”.
Even before I’d finished the book and taken a peek at the flap cover, I knew that the author had to be a poet. And he is! C.K. Williams was first published in 1969, and (according the the bio blurb I read in The Poetry Foundation http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/c-k-williams )
“is especially known as an original stylist; his characteristic line is extraordinarily long, almost prose-like, and emphasizes characterization and dramatic development.” This is exactly what drew me into his picture book!
Here is one such poem:
On The Metro
On the metro, I have to ask a young woman to move the packages beside her to make
room for me;
she’s reading, her foot propped on the seat in front of her, and barely looks up as she
pulls them to her.
I sit, take out my own book—Cioran, The Temptation to Exist—and notice her glancing
up from hers
to take in the title of mine, and then, as Gombrowicz puts it, she “affirms herself
physically,” that is,
becomes present in a way she hadn’t been before: though she hasn’t moved, she’s
to come more sharply into focus, be more accessible to my sensual perception, so I
can’t help but remark
her strong figure and very tan skin—(how literally golden young women can look at the
end of summer.)
She leans back now, and as the train rocks and her arm brushes mine she doesn’t pull it
she seems to be allowing our surfaces to unite: the fine hairs on both our forearms,
achingly alive, bring news of someone touched, someone sensed, and thus