I read William Carlos Williams’ Spring and All twice through, back to back. Due to my travel boredom, yes, but also because it’s a crazy little book, and requires another go asap. It did for me, at least. I was frazzled and travel weary, my focus wasn’t all there – a great mindset for a mindfuck. This delivers.
It’s a treatise on intellect, creativity, and the boundaries (if there are any) between poetry and prose. While he argues that there are indeed delineations, the book itself argues that there aren’t. WCW writes in deliberately imperfect prose, assigning random chapter numbers and using large breaks between paragraphs so it would seem that each must stand on its own. He leaves off mid sentence, and makes you finish thoughts. He forces you to think, goddamnit. I could picture him cackling with glee as he pushed out another sentence spoken with logical and intellectual assuredness, complete with typos that may or may not have been intentional. And I thought, ‘you’re an asshole, William Carlos Williams’ and laughed, too.
The poem that gets all the attention is XXII, known as The Red Wheelbarrow. But my favourite is XXI (illogically preceding in the right order) that goes,
one day in Paradise
to see the blandness
of the leaves —
I don’t know what scholars have said about this poem or this book, perhaps it should be obvious that it doesn’t matter. He’s set up a playground that will make some readers giggle as they wind and dart through the words, that will cause fierce playground spitfights, knock a few readers on their asses because they didn’t see the swing coming back at them, and make some violently ill with the spin.
I was always a playground bystander, unwilling to jump into the fray, so I think the Gipsy is Williams, the Paradise is a false one, and the amusing blandness of the leaves – sheathes and sheathes of tomes of leaves – are overwrought attempts at Great Prose or Great Poetry. And still….
Still, every once in awhile, someone manages to knock out something unique, in spite of themselves. Do I wish I was that someone? Oh yes. But I read stuff like this, and I know that I’m …still on the edge of the playground. I might stay here forever. At least the kids vomiting up their lunch are out there taking it on.