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Uncharted Territory with William Carlos Williams

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Caroline Hensley

on 7 March 2017

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Transcript of Uncharted Territory with William Carlos Williams

Uncharted Territory with William Carlos Williams
Caroline Hensley
William Carlos Williams
Williams is a prime example of someone going through uncharted territory to grasp the success he desired because of the unique style he sought and introduced to the world.
Although he is now revered as a literary innovator, he was ridiculed and overlooked as a writer during his early career because of how he broke the barriers of methodical poetry in the twentieth century.
He used enjambment, variable foot, and casual content to set himself apart from the literary icons of his time. This contrasted the traditional structured poetry of his time.
He was a frontrunner of the Imagist movement and was inspired by peers like Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle.
He focused primarily on his literary career but was also kept busy with his private practice in New York.
His work life made the biggest impact on his writing style due to the close connections he developed with his middle class patients and the inspiring experiences a doctor often comes across
His main theme across all of his mediums of literature reflects the lives of America’s working class during events like the Great Depression or WWII.
It took 30 years of writing for Williams to become professionally recognized because of his unconventional approach to poetry.
"2 Little Whos" by E.E. Cummings
This title, “2 little whos,” makes me think of innocent children and sets the tone for the rest of the poem. Cummings builds up this innocent mood through phrases such as “wonderful tree smiling,” “far from a grown-up,” and “dreams incredible” which depict a simple, youthful happiness (lines 4, 9, 15). Cummings employs informal diction through the use of the number “2” instead of the word “two” and his lack of punctuation and capitalization. The use of enjambment presents a stream-of-consciousness style of writing similar to how a child may speak. These factors also add to the innocent, light hearted tone of the poem. The ‘2 little whos’ depicted are symbols of children without a worry in the world. They have an ‘ignorance is bliss’ outlook on life and think very simply. Lines 6-8 say that children do not know anything of the real world, which is a good thing. They ignore all of life’s strifes and only focus on the happy “now and here”.
"Alone" by Edgar Allen Poe
“Alone” has a dark tone and employs sinister diction. The speaker expresses that he has never fit in with common society and, thus, had a troubled life. He refers to his childhood as “the dawn of a most stormy life” in line 10. This recurring storm motif adds to the dark tone. He refers to “lightning in the sky” and “the thunder, and the storm” when describing his life struggles. These parallel the happiness and social opportunities that struck past him without him truly experiencing them. He never reciprocated or related to the feelings of his peers, which drove him into mental and social isolation. He even describes a “cloud that took the form…of a demon” in his storm of a life (20-22). This demon can resemble the alcoholism and depression that famously plagued Poe’s life.
"A Life" by Sylvia Plath
The first four stanzas of this poem appear to be describing a masterful painting. The title, “A Life,” however, hints to the audience that it describes much more. In the depicted painting, people are frozen in their actions timelessly. They have regal, “valentine faces” and will continue to forever- “here’s yesterday, last year—” (line 3,17). The speaker describes how careless and “light as a cork” the people are in line 9 with seemingly perfect lives. After the fourth stanza, a shift occurs. The speaker begins to describe a “elsewhere [in] the landscape” (line 19). The background of the otherwise stately painting is tragic. A blinding light, blank paper, and a woman “dragging her shadow in a circle” all appear to be describing a somber hospital in the fifth and sixth stanza. The woman is isolated and plagued by “age and terror, like nurses”. She lacks even emotions and feels like “a fetus in a bottle” in her secluded setting (line 26). This depressing, dark imagery makes a stark contrast with the beautiful family depicted in the fourth stanza. The focus of the poem shifts again in line 31 where, outside the hospital-like building, a seascape is painted. This scene is depicted as “the future” and includes somber seagulls and “a drowned man, complaining of the great cold” (line 34). He symbolizes a bleak, finite outlook on life in which humanity cannot escape the imminent cold grip of death. Essentially, Plath depicts three contrasting situations that all resemble “A Life.” The family in the first half of the poem are worry-free, the hospitalized woman is depressed and isolated, and the man is drowning in his overwhelming knowledge of his mortality.
"Walking Around" by Pablo Neruda
“Walking Around” depicts humanity in a satirical, cynical way. The speaker is “sick” of the common things that often are associated with humanity such as “the smell of barbershops,” “spectacles,” and “elevators” (line 6-10). He repeats the phrase “It so happens I am sick of being a man” in lines 1 and 11 to emphasize that this is the message of the poem. He would much rather be anything other than human, including rocks in the ground. Although this is a hyperbole, it properly conveys the speaker’s desire to separate himself from man. He begins a root motif in line 20 where he compares the common man to a tree root aimlessly and blindly reaching deeper into the ground. It seeks nothing of true fulfillment but material to survive. Then, in line 25, the speaker compares man to a tomb “half frozen, dying of grief.” He ends the poem describing mundane, regular activities and attributes of man in a dreary way including “going through office buildings and orthopedic shops, and courtyards with washing hanging from the line… from which slow dirty tears are falling” (line 47). This somber description of the speaker’s life makes the reader able to relate to his sickness of humanity and desire to break away.
"Young Sycamore" by William Carlos Williams
This poem describes a tree with very dynamic diction and flowing syntax. There is no punctuation or capitalization which gives off a fast-paced, exciting tone. Words like “undulant thrust,” “dividing and waning,” and “eccentric knotted twigs” provide an active depiction of the sycamore tree. This can parallel the energetic motions of life. In the first stanza, a young tree is emerging from a wet pavement crack, much like birth. In the second through fifth stanzas, the tree continues to grow, first gaining height and eventually branches and cocoons. In the last stanza, however, the tree is simply an “eccentric knotted twig” similar to old age or death. The tree bustles through life quickly and reaches the end of its life rather abruptly in line nineteen. The message is that life moves quickly no matter what, so one should look around and enjoy it before it is too late.
"Dawn"
by William Carlos Williams
“Dawn” paints a vivid, beautiful image of a sunrise with an upbeat, energetic tone. In lines 1-7, “ecstatic bird songs” are said to light up the sky with passion and color. They also are said to bring warmth and “triumphant ardor” to the previously “hollow” world. These birds are reverently and excitedly preparing the sky for the arrival of the sun. When the sun arrives with a heaving push in line 10-13, glory and honor is given to it by the sky. Personification is heavily implemented with the birds’ preparation and when the sun “lifts himself” into the sky. In line 15 when “songs cease,” reverence is shown to the presence of the sun by all nature. It is the live-giving source for all and is appreciated as thus.
"The Soughing Wind" by William Carlos Williams
Williams’ writing style includes surface-level material without much more to interpret. This short, direct poem is a perfect example of this. The nature of leaves is described as either lasting into winter or falling soon before. He states in the last line that this is a “tale of winter branches and old bones,” which lets the reader know that he is comparing human life to the leaves. Just as a leaf’s attachment to a tree branch varies from leaf to leaf, humans never know when their time will be up. They can either last into the “winter” of their old age or not. Essentially, life can flutter by at a moment’s notice so one should enjoy it. Also, just as each leaf varies in color or shape, each human life is unique and special.
http://poetry-fromthehart.blogspot.com/2015/03/2-little-whos-e-e-cummings.html
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/46477
http://milan-poetry.blogspot.com/2007/01/life-sylvia-plath.html
http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/walking-around/
https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/young-sycamore/
http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/dawn/
http://poetrynook.com/poem/soughing-wind
Caroline Hensley going through uncharted territory
"A Villanelle for the Little Things" by Caroline Hensley
It’s funny the things we appreciate the most.
Something like a lucky pair of old shoes,
Or something like a piece of freshly buttered toast.

I rejoice more over a lazy morning spent with eyes closed,
Than elaborate acts meant to amuse.
It’s funny the things we appreciate the most

If asked what I accomplished today, I might boast,
That I was gifted with an extra ‘snooze’
Or something like a piece of freshly buttered toast.

When I walk in my house and smell a pot roast,
Or utilize the ingenious concept of drive-thrus.
It’s funny the things we appreciate the most

Picking flowers along a breezy coast
On a day just nice enough to mildly enthuse.
Or something like a piece of freshly buttered toast.

Appreciating is a concept unlike most
Because the littlest things can be the biggest news.
It’s funny the things we appreciate the most.
Such as a piece of freshly buttered toast.
"A Commute" by Caroline Hensley
Commuting along to a favorite song
On a road far and away from the ground.
The wind peruses through the windows, strong,
Mixing in well with your favorite smooth sound.

As the concrete ascends into the sky,
The sun peaks its striking colors in sight,
Refracted through lenses, low in the sky.
Continue to drive up into the night.

Bold colors create a harrowing view
That greets all who pass under its grandeur.
The deep spectral fusion fading from blue
Goes well with the melodies of splendor.

A long drive home with the radio on.
An encounter with the flipside of dawn.

"The Seizing Wind"
by Caroline Hensley
SOME leaves may stay, and some whirl
Away from their bud— they go
To tell a new tale and start a new grove.
Here are my original poems. I discovered a new part of myself while writing these and really felt like I was exploring foreign waters. I became a poet, which is something I never saw coming.
Appendix
Ars Poetica
When first faced with the task of analyzing and writing poems, I was intimidated. I was venturing into uncharted territory. The word “poetry” itself holds a tantalizing amount of mystery. I eventually somewhat learned my way around the word and now understand what is means to be a poet. Poetry is vague yet complicated. One must see beyond words and definitions to truly understand what is being said. Also, one must see the power words hold. Poetry is all about depicting a world view in a few lines, especially William Carlos Williams’ poems. A poem holds a writer’s view on life and mindset if one can look hard enough to see it.
This is film adaptation from Youtube of Williams' poem "So Much Depends."
This is an artistic adaptation of "So Much Depends."
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