* dedicated with william carlos williams

While “The Red Wheelbarrow” remains one of his more popular poems – and one that confounds students to this day, usually leading to the question Why is that a poem? (to which I usually respond with Why not?) – read enough William Carlos Williams and you’ll see how multifaceted his body of work is. In this week’s poem, “Dedication for a Plot of Ground,” Williams is able to whirlwind through the details of a human life and have them stand with as much vividness as the more nuanced image of

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

Two weeks ago I shared a poem by Blaise Cendrars in which I discussed the use of lists in poetry and life. Williams’ use of a list in this week’s poem opens up and gives a second life to a person through his own singular way with specificity.

* este wheelbarrow *
* este wheelbarrow *

Dedication for a Plot of Ground – William Carlos Williams

This plot of ground
facing the waters of this inlet
is dedicated to the living presence of
Emily Dickinson Wellcome
who was born in England; married;
lost her husband and with
her five year old son
sailed for New York in a two-master;
was driven to the Azores;
ran adrift on Fire Island shoal,
met her second husband
in a Brooklyn boarding house,
went with him to Puerto Rico
bore three more children, lost
her second husband, lived hard
for eight years in St. Thomas,
Puerto Rico, San Domingo, followed
the oldest son to New York,
lost her daughter, lost her “baby,”
seized the two boys of
the oldest son by the second marriage
mothered them—they being
motherless—fought for them
against the other grandmother
and the aunts, brought them here
summer after summer, defended
herself here against thieves,
storms, sun, fire,
against flies, against girls
that came smelling about, against
drought, against weeds, storm-tides,
neighbors, weasels that stole her chickens,
against the weakness of her own hands,
against the growing strength of
the boys, against wind, against
the stones, against trespassers,
against rents, against her own mind.

She grubbed this earth with her own hands,
domineered over this grass plot,
blackguarded her oldest son
into buying it, lived here fifteen years,
attained a final loneliness and—

If you can bring nothing to this place
but your carcass, keep out.

***

Happy bringing!

Jose

p.s. Read an article on the recent discovery of the man behind “The Red Wheelbarrow” here.

* listing with blaise cendrars

This week’s poem – “Chinks” by Blaise Cendrars – reminded me of an early lesson about list poems, namely how most poems can easily slip into lists. Whether it be a series of phrases, images, or movements, lists can sneak their way into poems, usually in threes (note how even in this sentence about lists there is a list of three within it!).

Mind you, there’s nothing inherently bad about this: usually it’ll happen naturally and have its own rhythm. Finding ways to subvert this human tendency towards *ahem* “listing” in a poem is always a challenge.

In the poem below, I was moved by the way Cendrars is able to create a pocket of human action between lists. The tension created between nature images and the speaker’s silence in the poem’s narrative adds energy to both.

* pieces, in *
* pieces, in *

Chinks – Blaise Cendrars

Sea vistas
Waterfalls
Trees long-haired with moss
Heavy rubbery glossy leaves
Glazed sun
High burnished heat
Glistening
I’ve stopped listening to the urgent voices of my friends discussing
The news that I brought from Paris
On both sides of the train close by or along the banks of
The distant valley
The forest is there watching me unsettling me enticing me like
a mummy’s mask
I watch back
Never the flicker of an eye.

translated by Dick Jones in qarrtsiluni

***

Happy watching!

Jose