Presented by Tikkun Magazine, the international voice of spiritual progressives, the Tikkun Award honors individuals who advance the magazine's vision of a unified world free of exploitation, oppression, and domination. One of this year's awards is being presented to Pulitzer Prize winning poet, C.K. Williams. Williams joins a long list of notable recipients, including Grace Paley, Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, and Allen Ginsberg. To mark the occasion, Tikkun's poetry editor Josh Weiner offered his thoughts on why, especially now, Williams deserves the award.
His remarks below.
What is the role of the poet in Tikkun’s core vision, of commitment to peace, social justice, ecological sanity? What is the role of the poet in a movement that aims to foster solidarity, generosity, kindness, and radical amazement? What is the role of the poet when it comes to social change and individual inner change?
Poetry is often discussed in our culture as a kind of commodity that few people are buying; but like meditation, reading poetry, listening to poetry, is less of a product, and more of a process, of coming into fuller awareness. Awareness of what? Our sense of connection to others starts within, moves without, and returns. The reciprocity between self and world is one of continual fluctuation, and there is no poet writing today who is more attuned to the ethical implications of that existential flux than C.K. Williams.
In a growing body of work that now spans over 40 years, C.K. Williams has dramatically rendered the exigency of mindfulness that is our ultimate living paradox—a state of consciousness we cannot escape because we are so busy expanding it: wonder, fear, doubt, curiosity, yearning, hopefulness, resolve, anger, tenderness; the recognition of one’s belonging, the necessity of one’s separation; the inevitability of extinction, the intuition of duration. A radical amazement wedded to a radical skepticism. An impossible marriage of mutual exclusions.
C.K. Williams has devoted himself to dwelling in the possibility of poetry, which, according to the rigor of his art, dissolves facile dualisms through imaginative engagement.
His poetry has become one of the necessary records of our spiritual struggle, which is a cognitive condition, a material situation, a worldly concern. He is one of our great storytellers of consciousness in quest of equilibrium, between the pressures of reality and the imagination that conceives new realities.
The possibility of change requires the ability to imagine change; and to imagine the greatest change, we need great poets. With verbal intensity, formal energy, restless intelligence, unyielding scrutiny, and something incalculable that we call authenticity, C.K. Williams has become one of this country’s great poets of conscience.
Join us at the ceremony honoring him Monday evening March 14 at the University of California, Berkeley.
Info and to register: www.tikkun.org/celebrate or by calling 510 644 1200.
Can't come? Then make a contribution to "the healing, repair and transformation of the world" (in Hebrew: tikkun) by donating in his honor (or in honor of the other honorees that evening--Justice Richard Goldstone who wrote the UN human rights reports on Bonsia, Rwanda and Gaza), Congressman Raul Grijalva (who leads the struggle for immigrant rights in the US House of Representatives), Naomi Newman (a cofounder of A Traveling Jewish Theatre), Rabbi Marcia Prager (director of the Jewish Renewal rabbinic training program and author of A Path of Blessing) and Sheikh Hamza Yusuf (Muslim theologian and a founder of Zaytuna College).
Donate at www.tikkun.org/donate
or by a check to Tikkun: 2342 Shattuck Ave, #1200, Berkeley, Ca. 94704.
We hope those of you in California can make it!