Grief And Williams

Grief And Williams In C. K. Williams’ “Grief,” the speaker explores the all too common experience of losing a loved one. The speaker describes the pain involved in sitting helplessly by, only able to watch, while another human being slowly withdraws into death. The poem “Grief,” like many of C.K. Williams’ poems, is a maelstrom of memories, thoughts, emotions, and other human experiences. In this particular poem, the speaker is torn by the slow death of his elderly mother.

His attempts to console himself and his family leads him to believe that she has lived a full life, and is now released from her suffering, headed toward a place of serenity and repose. How does this phrase “peace of the earth,” (32) suggest a release from the suffering of dying? In the poem entitled “Grief,” by C. K. Williams, the reader is taken through one man’s painful experience of watching his mother’s slow death. Williams is renowned for his ability to capture the emotions and concepts of the human spirit.

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Perhaps The Boston Globe’s critic, Jonathan Aaron, put it best in his review, stating: A matchless explorer of the burdens of consciousness, C. K. Williams has always written brilliantly about human pain, that which we inflict upon others and upon ourselves, and that which we experience in dreading what we’re fated for. Williams does not dispute that death is not a natural thing, in fact it is something that we are all “fated for”, however he attempts to illustrate the pain and human emotion that are associated with death. In the poem “Grief,” Williams is also successful in demonstrating the transition from the anguish experienced while a loved one withdraws into death, to the eventual rest the deceased enter.

The phrase “peace of the earth” is suggestive of the body’s final resting place, in which the soul is liberated from the body in death, and the individual experiences a release from suffering. Throughout the poem, the speaker attempts to identify and understand exactly what grief is. His mother’s suffering torments him, and when she finally comes to death she enters the peace of the earth. The word peace means a state of tranquillity of quiet. A state of such tranquillity and quiet, like that which is associated with death.

When one is dead, it is believed that the body is laid to rest and the soul is freed to a state of tranquillity. The word peace also refers to a relief from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions, and harmony in personal relations. These meanings can be applied in two very differing situations. On the one hand, it is the deceased mother who comes to experience peace through death, however, on the other hand the son too undergoes a sense of peace or calming sense of mind after his mother’s suffering has ended. In this poem, Williams also focuses on the symbolism of life and death in association with the word earth.

In reality, the word earth denotes soil. Yet In all practicality, this reference to the soil in which the dead are interred has, however, a more symbolic meaning — the sphere of mortal life. The mind frame that Williams sets is one where the earth is a mortal world in which physical suffering exists and the body is unprotected against it. Eventually the body gives way to death, and the final outcome of the “mortal earth” is a death that delivers us from suffering into peace. Many religions identify earth with the human body and its origin.

The word earth also literally means the mortal human body, and in faiths such as the Christian tradition, man is believed to have been borne of ashes [earth], and to ashes he will return. Thus is Williams’ argument that death’s inevitability has caused the grieving process to become such a normality that we are often unsure as to whether we even experience it. Other figurative language used in this poem that can be directly correlated to Williams’ depiction and identification of grief, is the phrase “countenance of loss” (32). These words are portray the demeanor of has suffered the loss of another, and undergone the grieving process. The countenance, or mental composure, is one of suffering and anguish which results from the loss of the loved one.

Death’s natural occurrence is one that affects us all. Whether its influence is felt personally, or through the suffering of others, the greatest endurance against death’s melancholy is the cleansing process of grieving. Bibliography Aaron, Jonathan, review of The Vigil, by C.K. Williams, The Boston Globe. Williams, C.

K. “Grief.” In The Vigil, 29-32. New York: The Noonday Press, 1998.