Monday, March 12, 2007

Poem of the Week 3/13/2007: Spring and All

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

William Carlos Williams 1923

Williams would always want us to read his poems as images only, but it is so difficult to not walk into them carrying some meaning! Perhaps it is not fair to say He Would Not want us to read anything into it. Rather, we might say that he doesn't want to write in a trace of ego. There ought to be no sense of authorial intent. I think that he looks to give us poems with the same kind of meaning that a photo has. So when we look at this poem, we are looking at Spring as such.

So enter landscape, enter the young and tender sprouts of Spring. It is a tenuous time Williams discuses; here, I get the sense that these are the three or four days before Spring arrives in full. The few days that this poem treats are the delicate ones stretching between Winter and Spring. These are the days of major change, of endings and beginnings. To come into the world is difficult, and the time of change is marked with vulnerability. I am not being that specific in this analysis, but I hope that you can infer the moments in the poem I am discussing.

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