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This review is taken from PN Review 236, Volume 43 Number 6, July - August 2017.

Cover of Falling Ill
David C. WardThe Writing Cure C.K. Williams, Falling Ill (Bloodaxe, 2017) £9.95

I have to confess I am predisposed to like C.K. Williams’s Falling Ill. Since we have had Confessional Poetry, why not Confessional Reviewing? I’m turning sixty-five and retiring soon and thoughts not just of getting older but of death and dying are beginning to creep into my mind at odd times. I’m sympathetic when Williams writes about distinguishing a new pain from the regular old pain that has always happened and if the new pains signal something ominous: ‘with them arrives the disquieting question / of whether they’re the innocent pangs I’ve always /felt and dismissed or might they be indications // of something newly arrived to be received with dread […]’ I’ve played a lot of sports and have been cycling recently in an obvious attempt to deny death and aging so I am accustomed to muscle soreness. But what’s with this lingering dull throb in my lower back? That aside, and I’m sure it’s nothing!, so far as I know I’m in good health (touch wood!) and am not, as Williams writes at the start of Falling Ill, ‘afflicted with a malady the name of which / I’ve never heard but which arrives now / in an alliterated appellation that sounds to me / utterly harmless […]’ It turns out its not harmless at all but fatal. Williams had a similarly ill friend whose cheerful oncologist referred to the x-ray machine as his ‘spot welder’, like he was just shooting a beam to repair and restore a piece of damaged metal work. Well it turned out that the spot wasn’t ...

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