Friday, August 17, 2007

Just take two poems and call me in the morning - William Carlos Williams

It's Friday, and I don't know about you, but I think I could use a poem. In fact, I think I might just makes this a series. Now I'll need to t come up with a clever name.

It's William Carlos Williams today (1883-1963). Born, lived and died in Rutherford New Jersey, Williams was a physician by day but was no less a contender in the world of modernist poetry among contemporaries like Wallace Stevens and Marianne Moore, for either seriousness or prolificacy. He was a champion of simplicity in the use of language, critical of Pound and Eliot for obscure allusions and use of languages other than English. He preferred local themes and plain language. Marianne Moore said that he wrote in "plain American which dogs and cats can read." His motto was "no ideas but in things," and some of his simplest poems could be said to be still lives. Critics might say they are almost the equivalent of Duchamp's readymades - comparing the famous "Fountain," shown in a 1917 exhibit, which was in fact a urinal, with Williams most famous poem, The Red Wheelbarrow. I find his work full of the mystery and freshness of what can make a thing beautiful. The last one is probably my favorite, not only a terrific poem but wickedly funny, I think. No more analysis, just a few poems.

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Spring and All

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast—a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines—

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches—

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind—

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf

One by one objects are defined—
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance—Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted they
grip down and begin to awaken

Shadows cast by the street light
under the stars,
the head is tilted back,
the long shadow of the legs
presumes a world taken for granted
on which the cricket trills

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold


Dewey said...

Two familiar poems and two that are new to me. Thanks! I enjoyed this post.

Ted said...

Dewey- That's funny, me too - I knew two and just discovered two when I decided to do this post!

Any clever thoughts about a good series name? Free Verse Fridays?