William Carlos Williams’ poetry carried me on an enjoyable reading journey this week. I especially enjoyed his poem “Spring and All.” As with some of Williams’ other poems which feature movement of “descent,” this poem also feature movements as an integral component to its structure and content.
“Spring and All” begins with the poet describing the sky: “By the road to the contagious hospital / under the surge of the blue / mottled clouds…” (1-3). The poet then begins a gradual descent with his description of the “broad, muddy field / brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen” (5-6). This descending movement describes not only the poet’s shifting of the literal landscape but also his attention to the desolate season of winter that precedes the life-giving season of spring. Williams continues to utilize descriptive language that sinks the movement deeper into the symptoms of the diseased status of nature in winter time:
patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees
All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
He even describes spring as an entity sickened by winter’s harming contagions: “Lifeless in appearance, sluggish / dazed spring approaches—” (14-15). However, the movement continues slightly upward in these lines to the sickly but hopeful force of spring. The lines that follow, with their birth-like, awakening language—“They enter the new world naked, / cold, uncertain of all / save that they enter”—further propel the movement upward (16-18). Enter is the word on display here because even though “their” surrounding remains uncertain and cold, “they” are only cognizant of entering. Lines 20-27 accelerate the upward movement with descriptions of the grass growing and leaves forming:
Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined—
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf
The next line puzzled me when I first read it because of the word “But” that began it (24). Indeed, the movement upward felt somewhat halted by this conjunction’s presence. But, after a second, third, and fourth reading, I recognized a sense of pause to explain the updated movement of entrance. “Dignity” is now assigned to entrance, whereas before entrance was marked by this startling, rushed, unformed entrance that has now taken shape, has “clarity” to it, and will even take root at the close of the poem. Birth has progressed to growth. Even though this growth is still new, in its beginning stages, the line that begins with “Still” cements the significance of the growth: “Still, the profound change / has come upon them” (25-26). The movement seems complete in these final lines signaling “the profound change” that spring has ushered (25-27). The movement has ascended to a state of re-birth with spring’s arrival, but it also descends from the poets descriptions of the “clouds” in the sky to his description of the new plants being “rooted” in the ground. In my mind, there seems to be two movements occurring in tandem taking form in these images:
“clouds” (sky) “spring”
“rooted” (ground) “winter”
When I read Ronaldo V. Wilson’s poem “71. Realizing Lucy” recently, I was also struck by the movement occurring in his poem. Wilson explains the context of his poem: “”71. Realizing Lucy’ is part of a series of seventy-two persona poems from my forthcoming collection, Lucy 72, unveiling race as slippery vantage points: thin white woman / fat brown man, or plain girl / bulky boy, flash of light, rocks, streams, running, simmering, retreating.” In Wilson’s poem, Lucy is ushered along by the movement of running up the mountain where, along the way, manifestations and phantasms concerning issues of race “move” around her and throughout her mind.
Ronaldo V. Wilson | “71. Realizing Lucy”
At the top of the hill, before the light gives way to the pine that
fractures across the sky, and the farmhouse, opens its door to shadow, there is a signal.
It is not the dead bird, lying out flat and face down in the middle of the street, its brown
belly on the pavement, cooled by the wind.
It is not in my chest, which opens up into sections as I breathe in the air that almost
shocks me into falling face down as I climb the hill.
It is not the breath. It is not the sky, which I haven’t looked at, staring up at the
mountains, which spreads down through the range up the curve.
It is not my knee, which seems at any moment will collapse into if nothing else,
the breaking beneath my legs, the final moment I push up, towards the end of the light.
There are shadows which cover the sign: SUN, painted in blue at the peak of the hill.
So, where, today, will I direct my anger?
Where will I turn, running past the women, who hover up the road, no cars,
crawling into their beers in the middle of the day?
Fat and White. I refuse to grow any fatter, or to not tan. This summer,
I burn off another self, sprinting up the high hill of my own making,
burning Kcals toward the peak of my own release. In this face, “What a view?”—
someone asking another. Was I supposed to seek something else into which to slip?