Saturday, February 05, 2005

To Waken an Old Lady

Sour Grapes (1921)
by
William Carlos Williams

To Waken an Old Lady

Old age is
a flight of small
cheeping birds
skimming
bare trees
above a snow glaze.
Gaining and failing
they are buffeted
by a dark wind--
But what?
On harsh weedstalks
the flock has rested,
the snow
is covered with broken
seedhusks
and the wind tempered
by a shrill
piping of plenty.
In his work William Carlos Williams was always anxious to speak like an American within an American context of small cities, immigrants, and workers; people from the everyday walk of life. He wanted his poetic line to reflect the rhythm of speech and would draw his subject matter from ordinary surroundings with common language. He is remarkable with his ability to communicate poetically in a fragmented society.

His desire was to tell the truth of what he saw with images; to tell the truth and show the way each thing in the world depends on other things by reflecting its own nature. Here in To Waken an Old Lady he does just that likening old age to a small flock of birds, striving, anxious, determined to survive. To "make a start" in Williams's poetry is of a necessity to name and he said with respect for the magic of language, "The only means the artist has to give value to life is to recognize it with the imagination and name it an 'intrinsic freshness'."

But what? Williams says abruptly, halfway through his poem about birds finding food in winter. He does it by startling, cleansing, clarifying, and always aware, as Williams always remained aware, that what counts for the reader arises from the saying, the naming and hearing it in the reading aloud, through the rhythm of the opening lines, the ear's pleasure in, Gaining and failing /they are buffeted by a dark wind-- , the exactness of bare trees/ above a snow glaze and On harsh weedstalks/the flock has rested. The metaphoric find of a dark wind-- in anticipation of his question; to combine it all with the display nature in their very specific ways.

He creates the depiction of the tough life of old age with his birds giving the reader much to think about, the harshness of nature, the severe life these small twittering maidens (for bird was in his day a synonym for a girl) endure flying on a gloomy nothingness about on an obscure business looking down upon valueless stipe pausing to reflect upon the fractured chaff. Contrasted against a harsh cry of abundance they suddenly become in the end out of place. So I am left with William Carlos William's unasked question in the midst of their hesitation and at his stopping place- since birds migrate; But where?

Sources:

Public domain text taken from The Poets' Corner


Friday, February 04, 2005

Blizzard

Sour Grapes (1921)
by
William Carlos Williams

Blizzard

Snow:
years of anger following
hours that float idly down --
the blizzard
drifts its weight
deeper and deeper for three days
or sixty years, eh? Then
the sun! a clutter of
yellow and blue flakes --
Hairy looking trees stand out
in long alleys
over a wild solitude.
The man turns and there --
his solitary track stretched out
upon the world.

Public Domain text taken from The Poet's Corner

Thursday, February 03, 2005

January

Sour Grapes (1921)
by
William Carlos Williams

January

Again I reply to the triple winds

running chromatic fifths of derision
outside my window:
Play louder.
You will not succeed. I am
bound more to my sentences
the more you batter at me
to follow you.
And the wind,
as before, fingers perfectly
its derisive music.

A very satisfying poem things haven't changed much since William Carlos Williams wrote this in the early part of the last century where he describes the howling winds that blow cold and icy between tall buildings. I've always found the sound to be quite comforting and sleep inducing, a lot like being snuggled under blankets on a stormy night.

But in this instance the poet has employed a music phrase "Chromatic fifths. A fifth is the intermission sandwiched between C and G, D and A, and so on. By itself a fifth has a pleasurable sound. "Chromatic" refers to movement up or down a scale; when you move chromatically, you move by half-steps: C to C#, C# to D, and so on. The effect of chromatic fifths is at once grating and disconcerting.

Sources:

Public domain text taken from The Poets' Corner

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Approach of Winter

Sour Grapes (1921)
by
William Carlos Williams

Approach of Winter

The half-stripped trees
struck by a wind together,
bending all,
the leaves flutter drily
and refuse to let go
or driven like hail
stream bitterly out to one side
and fall
where the salvias, hard carmine--
like no leaf that ever was--
edge the bare garden.

Sources:

Public domain text taken from The Poets' Corner

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Willow Poem

Sour Grapes (1921)
by
William Carlos Williams



Willow Poem

    It is a willow when summer is over,
    a willow by the river
    from which no leaf has fallen nor
    bitten by the sun
    turned orange or crimson.
    The leaves cling and grow paler,
    swing and grow paler
    over the swirling waters of the river
    as if loath to let go,
    they are so cool, so drunk with
    the swirl of the wind and of the river--
    oblivious to winter,
    the last to let go and fall
    into the water and on the ground.
    William Carlos Williams

Sources:

Public domain text taken from The Poets' Corner

Monday, January 31, 2005

The Desolate Field

Sour Grapes (1921)
by
William Carlos Williams

The Desolate Field

Vast and grey, the sky
is a simulacrum
to all but him whose days
and vast and grey, and--
In the tall, dried grasses
a goat stirs
with nozzle searching the ground.
--my head is in the air
but who am I . . ?
And amazed my heart leaps
at the thought of love
vast and grey
yearning silently over me.

Sources:

Public domain text taken from The Poets' Corner