Born November 4, 1936, in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Paul B. Williams and Dossie (Kasdin) Williams, Charles Kenneth Williams was educated at Bucknell University and at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he received a B.A. in 1959. In 1965, he married Sarah Jones, and they had one daughter, Jessica Anne, who figures in Williams’s personal poems. At the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, he founded a program of poetry therapy and was a group therapist for disturbed adolescents.
A Day for Anne Frank led to the publication of two volumes of poetry, Lies in 1969 and I Am the Bitter Name in 1972, that established Williams as a protest poet of the Nixon era. In 1975, Williams married Catherine Mauger, a jeweler, and with her had one son. He was a visiting professor at Franklin and Marshall College in 1977 and at the University of California, Irvine, in 1978 before becoming professor of English at George Mason University. After spending many years at George Mason, he joined the creative writing faculty at Princeton in 1996. He has taught creative writing at various workshops and colleges, including Boston University and Columbia University. He became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2003 and a chancellor of the American Academy of Poets in 2005. He has been dividing his time between teaching at Princeton and living in France.