As I was glancing through my poetry books, pondering where to begin my Something in a Summer’s Day Poetry month, I found I shied away from the Victorians. I wanted the modern, frank, clear imagist poetry of William Carlos Williams. I recently posted on my other blog about the picture book about this author, A River of Words by Jen Bryant, a picture book about Williams’ life as a country doctor who could not stop writing. It was time to visit his poetry.
When I think of Williams, I immediately think of the clever irony in “This is Just to Say,” the poem about eating the plums from the ice box. I love the tone in that poem! It’s so real. I can picture the narrator of the poem eating those cool plums, and I feel just as jealous as the person to whom the narrator is speaking. I remember reading “The Red Wheelbarrow” in ninth grade. I did not understand it then, and I’m not sure I do now, but I love the colorful image it creates in my mind.
Some other poems I enjoyed included the following. In “The Poem and the Poet,” the narrator is frustrated with his own attempt to describe poetry. I love metadiscourse, so this poem is quite appropriate. My favorites were the simple glimpses of life in a rural town at the turn of the century. “Complete Destruction” discusses the burying of a cat, but it is really about the fleas on the cat. What a view of the world! There are many more poems by William Carlos Williams. I hope you get a chance to read some of them. What is your favorite poem by WCW?
I also read on the Poetry Foundation website a little bit about his life. I was struck time and again by his place in history. What a tragic story that he was completely overshadowed by T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, which Williams insisted put poetry creativity back a few decades. He was not read much at all while he was alive. While the Lost Generation was off in Paris together, he was delivering babies in his small town of Rochester, New Jersey.
I must admit I’m a bit curious to read The Waste Land now to see what the fuss was. But I suspect I that I will prefer the simple and clear images William Carlos Williams evokes in his poetry.