so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
On September 17, 1883, William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey. He began writing poetry while a student at Horace Mann High School, at which time he made the decision to become both a writer and a doctor. He received his MD from the University of Pennsylvania, where he met and befriended Ezra Pound.
Pound became a great influence on his writing, and in 1913 arranged for the London publication of Williams's second collection, The Tempers. Returning to Rutherford, where he sustained his medical practice throughout his life, Williams began publishing in small magazines and embarked on a prolific career as a poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright.
Following Pound, he was one of the principal poets of the Imagist movement, though as time went on, he began to increasingly disagree with the values put forth in the work of Pound and especially Eliot, who he felt were too attached to European culture and traditions. Continuing to experiment with new techniques of meter and lineation, Williams sought to invent an entirely fresh—and singularly American—poetic, whose subject matter was centered on the everyday circumstances of life and the lives of common people.
His influence as a poet spread slowly during the 1920s and 1930s, overshadowed, he felt, by the immense popularity of Eliot's "The Waste Land"; however, his work received increasing attention in the 1950s and 1960s as younger poets, including Allen Ginsberg and the Beats, were impressed by the accessibility of his language and his openness as a mentor. His major works include Kora in Hell (1920); Spring and All (1923); Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems (1962), which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; the five-volume epic Paterson (1963, 1992); and Imaginations (1970).
Williams's health began to decline after a heart attack in 1948 and a series of strokes, but he continued writing up until his death in New Jersey on March 4, 1963.
Plants are deceptive. You see them there
looking as if once rooted they know
their places; not like animals, like us
always running around, leaving traces.
Yet from the way they breed (excuse me!)
and twine, from their exhibitionist
and rather prolific nature, we must infer
a sinister not to say imperialistic
grand design. Perhaps you’ve regarded,
as beneath your notice, armies of mangrove
on the march, roots in the air, clinging
tendrils anchoring themselves everywhere?
The world is full of shoots bent on conquest,
invasive seedlings seeking wide open spaces,
materiel gathered for explosive dispersal
in capsules and seed cases.
Maybe you haven’t quite taken in the
colonizing ambitions of hitchhiking
burrs on your sweater, surf-riding nuts
bobbing on ocean, parachuting seeds and other
airborne traffic dropping in. And what
about those special agents called flowers?
Dressed, perfumed, and made-up for romancing
insects, bats, birds, bees, even you –
– don’t deny it, my dear, I’ve seen you
sniff and exclaim. Believe me, Innocent,
that sweet fruit, that berry, is nothing
more than ovary, the instrument to seduce
you into scattering plant progeny. Part of
a vast cosmic program that once set
in motion cannot be undone though we
become plant food and earth wind down.
They’ll outlast us, they were always there
one step ahead of us: plants gone to seed,
generating the original profligate,
extravagant, reckless, improvident, weed.
Poetry is a rhythmic representation of diction, imagery, symbol, syntax, and other literary elements.
In creating music, poets may use end rhyme, alliteration, assonance, consonance, anaphora, refrain, and/or some other sound-related techniques. So, you would want to slow down a bit, so that you can catch the musical elements in this poem.
Why don't you practice this routine, when you encounter a new poem, look around--listen--mull it over--and tell?
Look around: where is the ship, Titanic, at the beginning of the poem? The title and subtitle will help guide you. The Titanic is lost. Stanzas 1 and 4 further provide more clues: the ship is far way from human society, "deep" "in a solitude of the sea," lying "lightless." Stanzas 2-4 depict the lofty pride and luxurious lifestyle of the affluent that are now the ironic testament of human vanity and blindness.
In Stanza 5, we might as well join the fishes in gawking at the sunken ship.
On a different note, why do you think Hardy uses capitalization so frequently?
Listen: what music and tone does the poem create? Each three lines--what we call a triplet--form a stanza and the same end rhyme intensifies the unity among these lines. Alliteration and consonance are heavily utilized to enhance the bleak and ominous tone: "lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind."
Mull it over: what is the speaker's attitude toward the sinking of this ship? Poets deliberately choose descriptive words, what we call diction, to conjure up specific images in the reader. What imagery do "twain," "mate," "intimate," "welding," "path coincidental," and "consummation" evoke in you? What force do you think would prepare such a fateful, ominous union between the Ship and the Iceberg? Is it closer to God or to Nature in your view?
and now tell us what this poem is about:
At the blackboard I had missed
Five number problems in a row,
And was about to foul a sixth,
When the old, exasperated nun
Began to pound my head agianst
My six mistakes. When I cried,
She threw me back into my seat,
Where I hid my head and swore
That very day I'd be a poet,
And curse her yellow teeth with this.
Why do you think becoming a poet is a means of revenge in the speaker's mind?
For Philip Hobsbaum
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.
The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.
These two lines--which are the whole extent of this poem--are the best-known example of imagist poetry.
Following is an introduction to imagism as appeared on
Imagism was a reaction against the flabby abstract language and “careless thinking” of Georgian romanticism. Imagist poetry aimed to replace muddy abstractions with exactness of observed detail, apt metaphors, and economy of language. For example, Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” started from a glimpse of beautiful faces in a dark subway and elevated that perception into a crisp vision by finding an intensified equivalent image. The metaphor provokes a sharp, intuitive discovery in order to get at the essence of life.
Pound’s definition of the image was “that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.” Pound defined the tenets of imagist poetry as:
I. Direct treatment of the “thing," whether subjective or objective.
II. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
III. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome.
These pictures above (from left to right) are chosen as visual approximations of the poet's words (from line 1 to line 2). As you can see in the above images, the contrast before and after the colon is very striking and stunning. Consider what literary devices Pound employs to achieve such a luminous contrast.
A ball will bounce; but less and less. It's not
A light-hearted thing, resents its own resilience.
Falling is what it loves, and the earth falls
So in our hearts from brilliance,
Settles and is forgot.
It takes a sky-blue juggler with five red balls
To shake our gravity up. Whee, in the air
The balls roll around, wheel on his wheeling hands,
Learning the ways of lightness, alter to spheres
Grazing his finger ends,
Cling to their courses there,
Swinging a small heaven about his ears.
But a heaven is easier made of nothing at all
Than the earth regained, and still and sole within
The spin of worlds, with a gesture sure and noble
He reels that heaven in,
Landing it ball by ball,
And trades it all for a broom, a plate, a table.
Oh, on his toe the table is turning, the broom's
Balancing up on his nose, and the plate whirls
On the tip of the broom! Damn, what a show, we cry:
The boys stamp, and the girls
Shriek, and the drum booms
And all come down, and he bows and says good-bye.
If the juggler is tired now, if the broom stands
In the dust again, if the table starts to drop
Through the daily dark again, and though the plate
Lies flat on the table top,
For him we batter our hands
Who has won for once over the world's weight.
At ten I wanted fame. I had a comb
And two coke bottles, a tube of Bryl-creem.
I borrowed a dog, one with
Mismatched eyes and a happy tongue,
And wanted to prove I was tough
In the alley kicking over trash cans,
A dull chime of tuna cans falling.
I hurled light bulbs like grenades,
And men teachers held their heads,
Fingers of blood lengthening
On the ground. I flicked rocks at cats,
Their goofy faces spurred with foxtails.
I kicked fences. I shooed pigeons.
I broke a branch from a flowering peach
And frightened ants with a stream of spit.
I said “Chale,” “In your face,” and “No way
Daddy-O” to an imaginary priest
Until grandma came into the alley,
Her apron flapping in a breeze,
Her hair mussed, and said, “Let me help you,”
And punched me between the eyes.
Discuss the impact of the last two lines.
All Nashville is a-chill! And everywhere,
As wind-swept sands upon the deserts blow,
There is, each moment, sifted through the air,
A powdered blast of January snow.
O thoughtless Dandelion! to be misled
By a few warm days to leave thy natural bed,
Was folly growth and blooming over soon.
And yet, thou blasted yellow-coated gem!
Full many a heart has but a common boon
With thee, now freezing on thy slender stem.
When once the heart-blooms by love's fervid breath
Is left, and chilling snow is sifted in,
It still may beat, but there is blast and death
To all that blooming life that might have been.