From The Poet's View documentary film series, which features intimate profiles of Kay Ryan, John Ashbery, Louise Glück, Anthony Hecht, W. S. Merwin, and C. K. Williams. Available in the Poetry Store.


The first poets that I attached to, the first one that I felt was somehow characterologically close to me was the French poet Baudelaire. And then I studied Yeats and Eliot in school and Yeats became very important to me, and then the German poet Rilke. And then from then I've always had a master or two, someone, some poet who I felt I was learning from. Sometimes it was George Herbert, sometimes it was Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Frost—the list is really endless; I seem to be an eternal student in poetry. When I go through a period when I don't have someone who I feel is teaching me, I can feel bereft.

People say that my poetry is political—I tend to think of it not so much as political, as being as conscious as it can be. And if you're as conscious of yourself as you can be, then of necessity you include, let's call them social and cultural tensions rather than political tensions. And there are times when I've had to be careful that I didn't become too political in my poems, that I didn't become too shrill or too...propagandistic, one would say. But I find that it's impossible not to think of these things when I think of myself, of my own life, and then of my work which comes out of my own life.

[Williams reads "Cassandra, Iraq"]