Of birthdays, those agey happenings,

On this day in 1883 William Carlos Williams was born. Little Willie grew up to be one of the most inventive, diverse, and influential of the Modernists.

Before I read Joyce’s Ulysses, WCW was my favorite Modernist (though I’m more knowledgeable about Pound). Willie’s book, Spring and All remains one of my favorite from the period and my own poetic work is inspired more by WCW than any other single writer.

Willie C could and did write just about anything. In my mind, though, he was first and foremost a poet. Willie knew poetry. Sure, there are folks today who know poetry but WCW – damn, he KNEW poetry. From Spring and All:

XIVof death
the barber
the barber
talked to me

cutting my
life with
sleep to trim
my hair –

It’s just
a moment
he said, we die
every night –

And of
the newest
ways to grow
hair on

bald death –
I told him
of the quartz
lamp

and of old men
with third
sets of teeth
to the cue

of an old man
who said
at the door –
Sunshine today!

for which
death shaves
him twice
a week

What I put down of value will have this value: an escape from crude symbolism, the annihilation of strained associations, complicated ritualistic forms designed to separate the work from “reality” – such as rhyme, meter as meter and not as the essential of the work, one of its words. But this smacks too much of the nature of – This is all negative and appears to be boastful. It is not intended so. Rather the opposite. The work will be in the realm of the imagination as plain as the sky is to a fisherman – A very clouded sentence. The word must be put down for itself, not as a symbol of nature but a part, cognizant of the whole – aware – civilized.

Happy b-day, Willie C Williams. Thanks for the wheelbarrows, the plums, and all the musings on New Jersey.

Ever your student,
J

Of birthdays, those agey happenings,