Monday, 4 November 2013

Words of the Week # 13

This week it’s a double whammy - “This is Just to Say” and “Reply” by Physician-turned –Poet and famous Imagist William Carlos Williams. 

During the early 20th century, Imagism was a growing precursor to modernism on the anglo-american poetry scene and which valued the use of crisp, clean, sharp imagery while rejecting the pomp that they believed surrounded Romantic and Victorian era poetry. They placed emphasis on the stripping away of all the jangly bits of their works and placed just the skeleton of their poem bare and raw giving a refreshing clear window into the subjects they are talking about.

William Carlos Williams is one of the worlds most famous Imagist and of my all time favourite poets because he writes not just about his own life in a very clean-cut approach but also about the people around him and his poetry often responds and interacts with them. Having a “Medical Badge” as Williams calls his profession, he says that it has let him follow his patients “into those gulfs and grottos..., to be present at deaths and births, at the tormented battles between daughter and diabolic mother" and it is in these moments that his inspiration to his poetry developed:  "it has fluttered before me for a moment, a phrase which I quickly write down on anything at hand, any piece of paper I can grab."  
it is this grasping nature of Williams to find inspiration in the daily running of his life is what I personally find so admirable.

One particular poem that has stood out for me is “This is Just to Say.” The story goes that this poem was left as a note to his wife – Florence Williams - as he was leaving for a night shift, about something very domestic and ordinary and simple (see below!); but it’s exactly this snapshot into a normal married life that makes the poem so much more profound and sweet. In fact, Williams later found Florence’s reply crumpled up and included it in a rare published version of his works (see below!!).

So next time you need to leave a message for someone special or even gently remind a house-mate that its their week for vacuuming - instead of texting or facebook-ing them - take out some paper and a pen and just start with: 
“This is just to say...”

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

-William Carlos Williams


(crumped on her desk)

Dear Bill: I've made a
couple of sandwiches for you.
In the ice-box you'll find
blue-berries--a cup of grapefruit
a glass of cold coffee.

On the stove is the tea-pot
with enough tea leaves
for you to make tea if you
prefer--Just light the gas--
boil the water and put it in the tea

Plenty of bread in the bread-box
and butter and eggs--
I didn't know just what to
make for you. Several people
called up about office hours--

See you later. Love. Floss.

Please switch off the telephone.

-Williams Carlos Williams (and Florence Williams) 

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