...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

September 17, 2004

Extra Friday Poetry

Today is William Carlos Williams' birthday (1883 - 1963). i don't think you can make a list of the greatest American poets without including Williams. What i like so much about WCW was that he wasn't neurotic or mentally ill, he didn't commit suicide, he was like a normal guy who wrote great stuff. In fact, he was a practicing physician in Rutherford New Jersey and happily married. Here's a well-known fragment from one of his longer poems, which is so simple, but so good.

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

And another, one of my favorites:

The Young Housewife

At ten AM the young housewife
moves about in negligee behind
the wooden walls of her husband's house.
I pass solitary in my car.

Then again she comes to the curb
to call the ice-man, fish-man, and stands
shy, uncorseted, tucking in
stray ends of hair, and I compare her
to a fallen leaf.

The noiseless wheels of my car
rush with a crackling sound over
dried leaves as I bow and pass smiling.

i like this one too:

The Term

A rumpled sheet
Of brown paper
About the length

And apparent bulk
Of a man was
Rolling with the

Wind slowly over
And over in
The street as

A car drove down
Upon it and
Crushed it to

The ground. Unlike
A man it rose
Again rolling

With the wind over
And over to be as
It was before.

Williams had this ability i envy so much. He was able to create a full picture of a moment in time with only a few words. It's like reading a Hopper painting.

Posted by annika, Sep. 17, 2004 |
Rubric: Poetry


When I was at school, junior year of high school that is, I did not like WCW and I think I still feel the same. I recall one day in particular from my English class, where each day someone had to read their 1-page "readers notebook" which they wrote in the night before. This day we started out with a vocabularly test. The format of these tests was to use multiple sentences with occassional blanks where you'd fill in the vocab word. Feeling mischeivious, I decided that some of the words in these sentences I did not know (in addition, obviously, to the words I was being tested on). So I piped up and asked Mr. Akers for the definition of one of the words. He asked if it was one of the words I was supposed to be tested on, and I said no because it wasn't. I asked for more definitions, but these times I actually asked for the words on the test -- and he told 'em to us! Folks around me were snickering, I was proud I was being a bit of rascal.

Well I got away with that, but after the test Mr. Akers says, "Well since you were so inquisitive during the test, how 'bout we read your Reader's Notebook?" I suppose, subconciously, I wanted it to be read, but I pleaded for him to pick someone else. Finally we comprimised: he would read it for me. The first line set the tone as Mr. Akers smiled when he said it: "Well, if this is being read in front of the class than I guess I'm screwed."

The sudden flush of laughter in the classroom was something to behold. But from there it just got worse. I made fun of what he was teaching us, saying I'd rather analyze episodes of "Mad About You". Then we got to some Breakfast table poem by WCW and I ripped into it as a piece of trash, child's play. Of course I ripped into it as best a junior in high school can, which did not impress Mr. Akers. He was quite upset with what I wrote and called it crap. After class I tried to be the first to get out the door but Mr. Akers told me to wait. Oddly enough this happened as I stood next to the door, so everyone in class looked at me as they passed by leaving. I got some thumb ups, and some looks of "who is this dork". In the end Mr. Akers told me I could do much better. I turned red from embarrassment as I am wont to do and that was that.

Since then I have come to love poetry more than most things. Still, right now, I do not like WCW. It just seems pretentious the way he uses language.

Posted by: Scof on Sep. 17, 2004

Wow, the red wheel barrow poem brings back so many memories....

Of high school (like Scof)...I remember our teacher asking us "what does this mean?" and everyone sitting around with these blank looks on their faces (myself included).

Posted by: Amy on Sep. 17, 2004

If you can remember high school, you weren't really there.

Thankfully, the copious use of alcohol has freed me from my keepers.

Marshall Mathers can rhyme, why can't Williams? Good imagery, nice sentiments, pretentious, Gentleman's C.

Posted by: Casca on Sep. 17, 2004

If you can remember high school, you weren't really there.

It seems like this should be a humorous statement but I don't find it so because I disagree with it. I enjoyed high school quite a bit, I made alot of good friends I still keep in touch with. Besides as cap'n of the Academic Decathlon team and VP of the Arizona Junior Classical League, I had the market cornered on all the hot nerd chicks.

Posted by: Scof on Sep. 17, 2004

I've always liked William Carlos Williams, and am fond enough of your Hopper comparison that I wish I'd made it. Exactly so.

Posted by: Fox on Sep. 19, 2004