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A preface to William Carlos Williams : the prepoetics of Kora in hell: improvisations Miki, Roy 1980

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A PREFACE TO WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS: THE PREPOETICS OF KORA IN HELL: IMPROVISATIONS  by  ROY AKIRA/MIKI B.A., The U n i v e r s i t y o f Manitoba, 1964 M.A.,  Simon F r a s e r  U n i v e r s i t y , 1969  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY  in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department o f E n g l i s h )  We a c c e p t t h i s t h e s i s as conforming to the r e q u i r e d  standard  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA January 1980  (c)  Roy A k i r a M i k i , 1980  DE-6  In presenting  this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for  an advanced degree at the University of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make i t f r e e l y available for reference  and  study.  I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may by his representatives.  be granted by the Head of my Department or  It i s understood that copying or publication  of this thesis for f i n a n c i a l gain shall not be allowed without my written permission.  Department The University of B r i t i s h Columbia 2075 Wesbrook Place Vancouver, Canada V6T 1W5  BP  75-51  I E  ii  ABSTRACT  F i r s t p u b l i s h e d i n 1920,  Kora i n H e l l : I m p r o v i s a t i o n s i s the f i r s t  of  a s e r i e s o f remarkable books which can b e s t be d e s c r i b e d as experiments and a f f i r m a t i o n s o f the w r i t i n g a c t , i m p r o v i s a t i o n a l t e x t s through which W i l l i a m s sought t o e s t a b l i s h a " p o e t i c s " o f w r i t i n g . of  W i l l i a m s c a l l e d Kora "an opening  the d o o r s , " and c e r t a i n l y the work t h a t came of i t , immediately i n the  1920's, and throughout the r e s t o f h i s w r i t i n g l i f e , would book, t h i s " s e c r e t document."  key  And he a l s o thought o f i t as a "wonder"  because he had no book i n mind when he f i r s t  s a t down to w r i t e  d a i l y f o r a y e a r , s i m p l y f o r the sake o f w r i t i n g . unplanned as i t was,  follow this  something  Unpremeditated  and  Kora f i n a l l y became a book and showed W i l l i a m s t h a t  a w r i t e r composes a £ he w r i t e s .  T h i s i s the key d i s c o v e r y which makes Kora  a c e n t r a l document i n W i l l i a m s ' b e g i n n i n g s as a w r i t e r .  At the same time,  and j u s t as i m p o r t a n t l y , K o r a a l s o i n i t i a t e d W i l l i a m s i n t o what would c a l l e d "modernist" w r i t i n g —  be  t h a t i s , w r i t i n g i n which the a c t o f w r i t i n g  i s a f f i r m e d as a mode o f c o n s c i o u s n e s s , a c t u a l to t h a t e x t e n t .  For t h i s  reason, t h i s study not o n l y examines the " h i s t o r y " of Kora's c o m p o s i t i o n i n r e l a t i o n to the o r i g i n o f W i l l i a m s ' p o e t i c s , but a l s o argues t h a t Kora i s a p r i m a r y t e x t i n the development  o f "modernist" w r i t i n g i n America,  For  W i l l i a m s , i n f a c t , the two were i n s e p a r a b l e .  W i l l i a m s -viewed the b e g i n n i n g s o f m o d e r n i s t w r i t i n g i n terms of a s h i f t from language u s e d as a t r a n s p a r e n t v e h i c l e of thought to a new  sense of  iii  language as i t s e l f a c t u a l .  " I t i s the making of t h a t s t e p , " he says i n h i s  Autobiography, " t o come over i n t o the t a c t i l e q u a l i t i e s , the words themselves beyond the mere thought expressed guished  t h a t d i s t i n g u i s h e s the modern, or  the modern of t h a t time from the p e r i o d b e f o r e  century."  Williams  the t u r n of  distinthe  a l i g n s t h i s d i s c o v e r y with, e a r l y 20th c e n t u r y m o d e r n i s t  a r t i s t s l i k e S t u a r t D a v i s , M a r c e l Duchamp and  Juan G r i s .  Alongside  this  change i n a t t i t u d e s toward language came an e q u a l l y r a d i c a l awareness of otherness  of the w o r l d , i t s " o b j e c t i v i t y " i n r e l a t i o n to the  of the mind's o r d e r s . p o s s i b l e a new a world  "subjectivity"  T h i s emphasis upon the p a r t i c u l a r i t y of t h i n g s made  understanding  of man  as a c r e a t u r e of n a t u r e ,  o f o t h e r l i v e t h i n g s : "a speaking  on W i l l i a m s ' u n d e r s t a n d i n g ,  a live  thing i n  animal."  This d i s s e r t a t i o n i s d i v i d e d i n t o three s e c t i o n s .  and  the  S e c t i o n One  focuses  e s p e c i a l l y i n the 1920's, of m o d e r n i s t w r i t i n g  a r t by c o n s i d e r i n g h i s " r e a d i n g " of Dadaism and  S u r r e a l i s m as w e l l as h i s  c r i t i c a l a p p r e c i a t i o n o f Gertrude S t e i n , James Joyce and  Shakespeare.  Section  Two  examines the t e x t u r e of Kora, . - s p e c i f i c a l l y the o p a c i t y of the w r i t i n g i n  it,  as the e f f e c t of a c r i s i s  a crisis  i n language.  The  i n meaning.  This c r i s i s i s t i e d d i r e c t l y  to  t e x t of Kora i s thus d i s c u s s e d as a drama through  which a d o u b l e t a l k i n g f o o l ' s v o i c e emerges.  The w r i t e r undergoing the a c t  of w r i t i n g f i n d s h i m s e l f thrown i n t o a c r i s i s o f mind which s u b v e r t s  the  c l o s u r e of f i x e d p o i n t s of view.  texture  of S t u a r t D a v i s '  A s i m i l a r e f f e c t i s evident  drawing, the f r o n t i s p i e c e ; t o the f i r s t  of t h i s r e j e c t i o n of p e r s p e c t i v e W i l l i a m s begins c r i s i s as a c o n d i t i o n o f e x p e r i e n c e .  e d i t i o n of.Kora.  to p e r c e i v e the nature  I t i s from t h i s b a s i s t h a t S e c t i o n  Three e x p l o r e s Kora as the o r i g i n of a new d e a l i n g w i t h the i m a g i n a t i v e w o r l d  i n the  poetic for Williams.  After  of p r e h i s t o r i c a r t i n r e l a t i o n to  the  Out of  iv  birth  o f the i m a g i n a t i o n i n Kora, i t then argues t h a t the i m p r o y i s a t i o n a l  method —  an a c t comparable  t o the a c t o f d r i v i n g a c a r —  which o p e r a t e s w i t h i n the e x p e r i e n c e o f c r i s i s , at  c r i s i s as a l i f e - p r i n c i p l e  Finally,  i s the one method S e c t i o n Three l o o k s  and examines the new sense o f a f e m i n i n e " s e l f "  i n Kora, one c o n s t i t u t e d through, the c r i s i s o f w r i t i n g .  F o r W i l l i a m s the  appearance o f t h i s o t h e r s e l f i n the a c t o f w r i t i n g i s a re-enactment i m a g i n a t i o n of the Kora myth.  i n the.  V  TO SLAVIA & WAYLEN FOR PUTTING UP WITH ME & TO ELISSE FOR BEING BORN RIGHT AT THE END  This immediacy, the thing, as I went on writing, living as I could, thinking a secret life I wanted to tell openly — if only I could — how it lives, secretly about us as much now as ever. It is the history, the anatomy of this, not subject to surgery, plumbing or cures, that I wanted to tell. I don't know why. Why tell that which no one wants to hear? But I saw that when I was successful in portraying something, by accident, of that secret world of perfection, that they did want to listen. Definitely. And my "medicine" was the thing which gained me entrance to these secret gardens of the self. It lay there, another world, in the self. I was permitted by my medical badge to follow the poor, defeated body into those gulfs and grottos. And the astonishing thing is that-at such times and in such places — foul as they may be with the stinking ischio-rectal abscesses of our comings and goings — just there, the thing, in all its greatest beauty, may for a moment be freed to fly for a moment guiltily about the room. In illness, in the permission I as a physician have had to be present at deaths and births, at the tormented battles between daughter and diabolic mother, shattered by a gone brain — just there — for a split second — from one side or the other, 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 an identifiable thing, and its characteristic, its chief character is that it is sure, all of a piece and, as I have said, instant and perfect: it comes, it is there, and it vanishes. But I have seen it, clearly. I have seen it. I know it because there it is. I have been possessed by it just as I was in the fifth grade — when she leaned over the back of the seat before me and greeted me with some obscene remarks — which I cannot repeat even if made by a child forty years- ago, because no one would or could understand what I am saying that then, there, it had appeared. (.The Autobiography  of William Carlos- Williams, 288-289)  vii  ABBREVIATIONS  A  The Autobiography o f W i l l i a m C a r l o s W i l l i a m s  AN  A N o v e l e t t e and Other Prose  CEP  The C o l l e c t e d E a r l i e r Poems o f W i l l i a m C a r l o s W i l l i a m s  CLP  The C o l l e c t e d L a t e r Poems o f W i l l i a m C a r l o s W i l l i a m s  EK  The Embodiment  GAN  The Great American  IAG  In the American  IW  I Wanted t o W r i t e a Poem  K  Kora i n H e l l : I m p r o v i s a t i o n s  P  Paterson  PB  P i c t u r e s from B r u e g h e l and Other Poems  PO  Poems, 1909  SA  S p r i n g and A l l  SE  Selected Essays o f W i l l i a m Carlos Williams  SL  Selected Letters of William Carlos Williams  o f Knowledge Novel  Grain  For convenience I have used the t e x t s o f Kora i n H e l l : I m p r o v i s a t i o n s , S p r i n g and A l l , "The Descent o f W i n t e r , " The Great American N o v e l , and A N o v e l e t t e and Other Prose c o l l e c t e d i n I m a g i n a t i o n s , ed. Webster S c h o t t , A l l page r e f e r e n c e s f o r these t i t l e s r e f e r t o I m a g i n a t i o n s . F o r example, K, 39 r e f e r s to a q u o t a t i o n from KOra i n H e l l on page 39 o f I m a g i n a t i o n s ; SA, 92 a q u o t a t i o n from S p r i n g and A l l on page 92 i n I m a g i n a t i o n s , and so on.  viii  TABLE OF CONTENTS Pages ABSTRACT  ii  PREFACE  ix  PROLOGUE: MY SELF WAS BEING SLAUGHTERED  2  SECTION ONE: THE WORD MAN INTRODUCTION: RING,-RING;-'RING, 'RING •  33  CHAPTER TWO: RIEN, RIEN, RIEN  52  CHAPTER THREE: THE LANGUAGE . . . THE LANGUAGE  66  SECTION TWO: PERSPECTIVE  AS CLOSURE  CHAPTER FOUR:'fOi? WHAT IT'S WORTH  87  CHAPTER FIVE: TO LOOSEN THE ATTENTION  128  CHAPTER SIX: THE FRONTISPIECE?  148  SECTION THREE: A NEW STEP  CHAPTER SEVEN: THE BIRTH OF THE IMAGINATION  169  CHAPTER EIGHT: WRITE GOING. LOOK TO STEER.  209  CHAPTER NINE: A.1NEW DIRECTION  244  CONCLUSION: AN OPENING OF THE DOORS  273  NOTES  287  BIBLIOGRAPHY  306  PREFACE  There i s an anecdote t o l d me by h i s mother, who wished me t o understand h i s c h a r a c t e r , as f o l l o w s : The young W i l l i a m C a r l o s , aged l e t us say about seven, a r o s e i n the morning, d r e s s e d and put on h i s shoes. Both shoes b u t toned on the l e f t s i d e . He r e g a r d e d t h i s untoward phenomenon f o r a few moments and then c a r e f u l l y removed t h e shoes, p l a c e d shoe a. t h a t had been on h i s l e f t f o o t , on h i s r i g h t f o o t , and shoe b_, t h a t had been on the r i g h t f o o t , on h i s l e f t f o o t ; both s e t s o f b u t t o n s a g a i n appeared on the l e f t s i d e o f t h e shoes. T h i s stumped him. With the shoes so buttoned he went to s c h o o l , but . . . and here i s the s i g n i f i c a n t p a r t of the s t o r y , he spent t h e day i n c a r e f u l c o n s i d e r a t i o n o f the matter. ( E z r a Pound, from "Dr. W i l l i a m s ' P o s i t i o n , " 1928)  Once I came .near .drowning, I d i v e d from a row-boat d u r i n g a storm t o r e c o v e r my oars which I had l o s t , h a v i n g "caught a c r a b . " I had l i g h t c l o t h e s on. I am n o t a v e r y s t r o n g swimmer. I r e c o v e r e d one o f the oars but the wind c a r r i e d my boat away f a s t e r than I c o u l d f o l l o w . The waves were h i g h . I swam as hard as I c o u l d u n t i l out o f b r e a t h . My c l o t h e s began t o drag. I t r i e d t o remove my shoes. I c o u l d n ' t . I swallowed some water. I thought I was done f o r when t h e r e c r o s s e d my mind these s e n t e n c e s : So t h i s i s the end? What a waste o f l i f e to d i e so stupidly. The thought was s i n g u l a r l y e m o t i o n l e s s , s i m p l y a c l e a r v i s i o n o f the s i t u a t i o n . So much was t h i s so t h a t I was i n s t a n t l y sobered. My a c t i o n t a k i n g a t once the q u a l i t y o f the thought, t u c k i n g the one o a r under my l e f t arm I swam q u i e t l y a l o n g hoping someone would see t h e empty boat and come out f o r me, which a man d i d . My courage, i f you w i l l , t u r n e d upon the c o l o r o f my thought. ( W i l l i a m C a r l o s W i l l i a m s , from "Three P r o f e s s i o n a l S t u d i e s , " 1919)  X  The  l o y e l y anecdote Pound /uses t o b e g i n h i s essay "Dr.  Position"  Williams'  (.1928),"'" i t s obvious . p l a y f u l n e s s a s i d e , i n d i c a t e s how immediately  he understood W i l l i a m s  t o be the k i n d o f w r i t e r who c o u l d d w e l l  on an  i n c o n s i s t e n c y and t u r n i t around and around - u n t i l i t f i n a l l y engaged h i s whole u n d i v i d e d  attention.  An i n t i m a t i o n o f t h i s same c a p a b i l i t y  lies  embedded i n a l i n e from Kora; i n H e l l : "Or throw two shoes on the f l o o r and see how t h e y ' l l l i e  i f you t h i n k i t ' s a l l one way" (K, 80).  mind o p e r a t e s i n c o n t r a r i e s — t h e i r complexity. indeterminate,  many ways a l l a t once —  And i t can do so simply  that a r e held i n  because i t t h r i v e s on what i s  unknown, and i n the p l a y o f change.  i t breathes.  Williams'  C r i s i s i s the v e r y a i r  The passage from "Three P r o f e s s i o n a l S t u d i e s " was w r i t t e n  around the same time as Kora, and a l t h o u g h i t reads as a b i o g r a p h i c a l s t a t e ment, no o t h e r  s i m i l a r statement w r i t t e n then c o u l d b e t t e r r e v e a l t h e t e x t u r e 2  o f h i s w r i t i n g i n t h i s unique book. boating By  He a p p a r e n t l y  work h i s way through.  His actions  In essence t h i s drama p r e s e n t s book began out o f a c r i s i s slaughtered"  (A, 158),  o f t h i s c r i s i s , he d i s c o v e r e d turned  i n Williams'  writing l i f e  The  ("my s e l f was b e i n g  into a c r i s i s  i n language.  to leap i n t o h i s own " s l a u g h t e r "  c o u l d r e t r i e v e him.  In Kora  to see i f the a c t  And t h e t e x t f i n a l l y p u b l i s h e d i n  i s t h e remarkable outcome o f t h i s v e n t u r e ,  amount t h a t W i l l i a m s  o f h i s thought.  he says i n h i s A u t o b i o g r a p h y ) , b u t g i v e n h i s n a t u r e as  allowed himself  of w r i t i n g i t s e l f  on the v a r i a b i l i t y  how t o  the terms o f what happens i n Kora.  a writer, i t quickly translated i t s e l f  1920  i n the  d i s a s t e r when he r e l e a s e d h i s mind t o the c o n d i t i o n o f the a c c i d e n t .  so a d j u s t i n g i t t o the c o n f u s i o n  Williams  saved h i m s e l f  Throughout the massive  would subsequently w r i t e , i t continues  t o read as a key,  the one book t h a t p r e f i g u r e s the Tinderlying p a t t e r n o f assumptions i n  xi  Williams' writing.  Kora r e v e a l s W i l l i a m s ' own b e g i n n i n g s , o r to use the  term I have chosen f o r the s u b t i t l e : o f  t h i s s t u d y , the " p r e ~ p o e t i c s " o f  his writing.  I n t h i s sense, what f o l l o w s may be u n d e r s t o o d as a " p r e f a c e "  to W i l l i a m s ,  Other than t h a t , W i l l i a m s h i m s e l f o f f e r e d me a c l u e as t o how  an extended  study o f such an unusual t e x t might be s t r u c t u r e d .  "It i s rarely  understood," he says i n S p r i n g and A l l , how such p l a y s as Shakespeare's were w r i t t e n — o r i n f a c t how any work o f "value has been w r i t t e n , the p r a c t i c a l b e a r i n g o f which i s t h a t o n l y as the work,was produced, i n t h a t way a l o n e can i t be u n d e r s t o o d . (SA, 128)  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS  I would l i k e e s p e c i a l l y t o thank P e t e r Quartermain f o r s u p e r v i s i n g t h i s dissertation. H i s support and t h o u g h t f u l a d v i c e throughout have h e l p e d me t o see my way through.  Warren Tallman and Robin B l a s e r have encouraged me a t t h e r i g h t moments.  And f i n a l l y , I would l i k e t o thank the Dean o f A r t s , Simon F r a s e r U n i v e r s i t y , f o r p r o v i d i n g me w i t h the s e r v i c e s o f M i r i a m Walker, who typed t h e f i n a l draft of t h i s d i s s e r t a t i o n .  ?  1  KORA IN H E L L : IMPROVISATIONS  By^ WILLIAM CARLOS  WILLIAMS  2  PROLOGUE  MY SELF WAS BEING SLAUGHTERED  3  In 1920 when the Kora i n H e l l was o r i g i n a l l y p u b l i s h e d by The Four Seas Co., of Boston, I was a young man, f u l l o f y e a s t t h a t was soon to f l o w e r as the famous o u t b u r s t o f l i t e r a t u r e and p a i n t i n g marking the e a r l y y e a r s of the p r e s e n t c e n t u r y . The n o t o r i o u s Armory Show had taken p l a c e i n 1913, seven y e a r s e a r l i e r , James Joyce's U l y s s e s was to appear i n 1922. (K, 29)  A f t e r a l o n g 37 y e a r i n t e r v a l , Kora i n H e l l ; I m p r o v i s a t i o n s f i n a l l y r e p u b l i s h e d i n 1957,  the o c c a s i o n of these opening  was  l i n e s from a  b r i e f " P r o l o g u e " t h a t W i l l i a m s wrote to r e p l a c e the o r i g i n a l one. 1920,  W i l l i a m s was  37 y e a r s o l d , perhaps not a "young man,"  " f u l l o f y e a s t , " who A v e r i t a b l e barrage  would soon f l o w e r i n h i s own of t i t l e s  appeared  Kora, as W i l l i a m s wrote h i s way 1923)  certainly  "outburst of l i t e r a t u r e . "  i n the y e a r s immediately f o l l o w i n g  i n t o the 20's:  the magazine Contact  (1920-  w i t h Robert McAlmon; Sour Grapes (1921), a c o l l e c t i o n of poems; the  e x p e r i m e n t a l prose of The and  but  In  Great American Novel  (1923);  the c r i t i c a l  prose  the poems of S p r i n g and A l l (1923) ; the essays on American h i s t o r y t h a t  4  comprise In the American during a t r i p  to Europe  G r a i n (1925), a p o r t i o n of which was i n 1924;  i n "The Descent of Winter"  the i m p r o v i s a t i o n a l p r o s e and the poems  (1928).; A Voyage to Pagany (1928), a  n o v e l t h a t grew out o f the European  escapade;  (1921-1931),  first  a t r a n s l a t i o n of P h i l l i p e  Soupault's S u r r e a l i s t n o v e l , L a s t N i g h t s o f P a r i s N o v e l e t t e and Other Prose  written  (1929); and f i n a l l y ,  A  more i m p r o v i s a t i o n s a l o n g s i d e a  c o l l e c t i o n o f e s s a y s , not p u b l i s h e d u n t i l 1932,  but a book t h a t  certainly  belongs t o the 20's, and i n f a c t a c t s as a summation o f W i l l i a m s ' i n v o l v e ment i n modernist w r i t i n g d u r i n g the  20's.  By the time Lawrence F e r l i n g h e t t i from C i t y L i g h t s Books  approached  W i l l i a m s to r e - i s s u e Kora i n h i s Pocket Poets S e r i e s , the one book t h a t thrown W i l l i a m s i n t o a new  had  decade o f w r i t i n g had become one of h i s most  h i d d e n , though i t had, a t the same time — " c l a s s i c s " o f modern American w r i t i n g .  by then —  become one o f the l o s t  Long u n a v a i l a b l e , but read by a  growing number o f poets and w r i t e r s , by the middle 50's Kora had e n t e r e d another g e n e r a t i o n , another time. c u r r e n c y , and perhaps i n which he mentions document f o r my  own  F e r l i n g h e t t i was  t h i s e x p l a i n s why  a c t i n g on  this  W i l l i a m s wrote another " P r o l o g u e "  t h a t Kora has "remained more o r l e s s o f a s e c r e t wonder and amusement known to few o t h e r s " (K, 30).  L e t another age, he i m p l i e s , make of the t e x t what i t can.  Yet the phrase " s e c r e t document" r e s o n a t e s , d e s p i t e the f a c t W i l l i a m s o f f e r s no f u r t h e r e x p l a n a t i o n or expansion o f i t .  And  that  the same  e f f e c t h o l d s t r u e f o r another statement on Kora, which he made a t about the same time, i n I_ Wanted to W r i t e a. Poem (1958) : Kora i n . H e l l : I m p r o v i s a t i o n s i s a unique book, not l i k e any o t h e r I have w r i t t e n . I t i s the one book I have enjoyed r e f e r r i n g t o more than any o f the o t h e r s . I t r e v e a l s myself t o me and perhaps t h a t i s why I have  5  kept i t t o m y s e l f .  (IW, 2 6 )  1  A "unique book, n o t l i k e any o t h e r I have w r i t t e n . " An "amusement."  A " s e c r e t document."  The one book t h a t " r e v e a l s myself to me," which i s why  i t was kept " t o m y s e l f " f o r so l o n g .  Kora d i d remain f o r W i l l i a m s both an  unusual and a s p e c i a l book, one t h a t he o f t e n l i k e d t o r e f e r t o .  I n I_  Wanted to Write, a^ Poem, indeed, he goes so f a r as t o p r o v i d e a f a i r l y l e n g t h y g l o s s on the unexpected backwardly  as i t was  way Kora came t o g e t h e r as a t e x t , w r i t t e n  —  The I m p r o v i s a t i o n s . . . came f i r s t ; then the I n t e r p r e t a t i o n s which appear below the d i v i d i n g l i n e . Next I a r r i v e d a t a t i t l e and found the S t u a r t Davis drawing. (IW, 29) As though he d i d n o t know u n t i l t h e v e r y l a s t —- o r l a s t b u t one — i t was he was d o i n g .  H i s remarks seem t o make Kora l e s s obscure; i t i s  s i g n i f i c a n t , however, t h a t W i l l i a m s does not t a l k about p e r s o n a l breakdown —  what  o r about, a breakdown a t a l l !  w r i t e i t i n the f i r s t p l a c e .  —  the severe  t h a t drove him t o  The c r i s i s i s so p r i v a t e t h a t i t s l i d e s  o n l y b r i e f l y i n t o t h e 1957 " P r o l o g u e , " but w i t h o u t f u r t h e r commentary  —  s c r i b b l i n g i n the dark, l e a v i n g behind on my desk, o f t e n p a s t m i d n i g h t , the sheets t o be f i l e d away l a t e r . . . . (K, 29)  The c r i s i s , W i l l i a m s t e l l s us i n h i s Autobiography, was p r e c i p i t a t e d by the war, the war i n Europe,  t h a t was d e s t r o y i n g e v e r y t h i n g he b e l i e v e d  i n : "Damn i t , " he w r i t e s , the f r e s h n e s s , the newness o f a s p r i n g t i m e which I had sensed among the o t h e r s , a reawakening o f l e t t e r s , a l l t h a t d e l i g h t which i n making a w o r l d t o match the supremacies o f the p a s t c o u l d mean was b e i n g b l o t t e d out by the war. (A, 158) " A l l that delight  . . . c o u l d mean," d e s t r o y e d .  And the image o f t h i s  d e s t r u c t i o n gave r i s e t o the f i g u r e o f t h e maiden Kora  (the Greek, K o r e ) ,  6  the v i r g i n deflowered  o r "raped" by Hades and abducted by him i n t o the  Underworld, i n t o H e l l .  "Kora was the s p r i n g t i m e o f the y e a r ; my  year,  my s e l f was b e i n g s l a u g h t e r e d " (A, 158). I n such an impasse, the mind t u r n s f o r r e l i e f , where? was the use o f denying thinking at a l l ,  A g a i n s t the l o s s , a g a i n s t the s l a u g h t e r : "What  it?  For r e l i e f ,  t o keep myself  from p l a n n i n g and  I began t o w r i t e i n e a r n e s t " (A, 158).  By 1917 (America  e n t e r e d the war i n •.April) W i l l i a m s .could q u i t e  p o s s i b l y have seen the war as a l a r g e - s c a l e breakdown, a s i g n t h a t an o l d e r w o r l d was c o l l a p s i n g inward in this "slaughter" — orders — 1917,  upon i t s e l f .  And the vengeance  which made a mockery o f any b e l i e f  might i n t u r n have supported  h i s growing sense,  unleashed  i n reasoned embryonic i n  f u l l - f l e d g e d i n the 20's, t h a t European c u l t u r e was d y i n g .  His  f r i e n d E z r a Pound wrote i n Hugh Selwyn Mauberley t h a t so many " o f the b e s t " d i e d f o r "an o l d b i t c h gone i n the t e e t h , " f o r "a botched  civili-  2 zation,"  a c i v i l i z a t i o n bankrupt o f s i g n i f i c a n c e and now brought t o the  n i g h t m a r i s h edge o f d i s i n t e g r a t i o n .  The war, f o r W i l l i a m s , c o u l d  thus  v e r y w e l l have been an image o f "Reason i n madness," t o quote a l i n e King  Lear.  3  Having s a i d t h i s much, however, as r e a d e r s o f Kora, we s t i l l uneasy f e e l i n g t h a t we a r e o u t s i d e the t e x t . war,  from  get the  The book, w r i t t e n d u r i n g the  was perhaps c o n d i t i o n e d by i t s s e n s e l e s s v i o l e n c e , but n o t h i n g on the  s u r f a c e o f i t would l e a d us t o conclude stands behind  it.  I n s t e a d , we a r e drawn i n t o the p r i v a c y o f the w r i t i n g ,  the v o i c e i n s i d e i t undergoing  an i n t e r i o r i z e d c r i s i s ,  of i t s mind b e i n g shaken a p a r t — of Kora.  t h a t the war, and o n l y the war,  a t war w i t h i t s e l f .  the v e r y  foundation  Hence the " s e c r e c y "  I n o t h e r words, the war i n Europe i s l e s s the cause o f Kora and  7  more the e x t e r n a l e q u i v a l e n t o f a l i k e d i s o r d e r i n W i l l i a m s ' mind. yes,  i n t h i s sense, the w r i t i n g does m a n i f e s t the c r i s i s  And  of a breakdown,  a former w o r l d o f b e l i e f s d e s t r o y e d by u n p r e d i c t a b l e f o r c e s t h a t break the  mind o f the w r i t e r and s p l i t  i t apart.  And  for  the v e r y t e x t u r e o f the w r i t i n g i n which the " s l a u g h t e r " o c c u r s .  into  t h i s c l e a v a g e does account  Hence the "documentary" n a t u r e o f Kora.  The "newness o f a s p r i n g t i m e " i n the "reawakening W i l l i a m s says the war of  the 1957  before.  " b l o t t e d out" s t i l l  " P r o l o g u e " t o Kora.  No mention  o f the war  of l e t t e r s "  l i n g e r s i n the opening  that  paragraph  The Armory Show had happened seven y e a r s at a l l .  The I n t e r n a t i o n a l E x h i b i t i o n o f Modern A r t a t the 69th Regiment Armory i n New  York opened on February 17, 1913  had been l a t e n t up t o then. t h i s infamous  and brought  to l i g h t what  As W i l l i a m s says i n " R e c o l l e c t i o n s "  show "shocked New  Yorkers i n t o a r e a l i z a t i o n , a v i s u a l -  i z a t i o n , t h a t t h e i r w o r l d had been a s l e e p w h i l e the a r t w o r l d had gone a r e v o l u t i o n . " Tempers  (1913), a s l i m volume o f p o e t r y , p u b l i s h e d i n London through the I t was  Pound who  p u b l i c statement on W i l l i a m s .  appeared "first  under-  L a t e r i n the same y e a r W i l l i a m s would, have The  d i r e c t e f f o r t o f Pound. first  (1952),  i n the October, 1912  a l s o wrote, a y e a r b e f o r e , the  "A S e l e c t i o n from The  i s s u e of The P o e t r y Review (London), the  magazine p u b l i c a t i o n o f the p o e t " (IW,  Note," the " f i r s t (IW, l l ) .  5  Tempers"  11) and Pound's " I n t r o d u c t o r y  p u b l i s h e d s e n d - o f f o f the then u n p u b l i s h e d W i l l i a m s "  8  W i l l i a m s would l a t e r c o n s i d e r The Tempers h i s f i r s t book of poems i n h i s Autobiography, The  —  f o r i n s t a n c e , he c a l l s Kora h i s t h i r d book, a f t e r  Tempers and A l Que  Quiere!  (1917) (A, 158)  —  but t h e r e i s a  "secret"  l i f e : y e a r s b e f o r e , he had p r i v a t e l y p u b l i s h e d Poems (1909) i n R u t h e r f o r d . Perhaps W i l l i a m s was e a r l y poems.  almost  immediately  embarrassed by t h i s c o l l e c t i o n of  He never a l l o w e d the book t o be r e p r i n t e d i n h i s l i f e t i m e ,  and hoped never.  I t i s of course q u i t e s u r p r i s i n g , a t f i r s t ,  that, the poet who  wrote P a t e r s o n , or f o r t h a t matter Kora, c o u l d have begun  w r i t i n g by t h i n k i n g up such l i n e s  to d i s c o v e r  as:  Hark! Hark! Mine e a r s a r e numb With dread! Methought a f a i n t h a l l o o i n g rang! Where a r t thou h i d ? Cry, c r y a g a i n ! I come! I come! I come! (PO, 9) Or: A l l o'ergrimed With dust and sweat a r t thou, which, j o i n t l y , mar Thine e l s e smooth, well-watched b u l k , t i l l many a s c a r Quick f a n c y sees t h e r e a p t l y pantomimed. (PO, 12) Much l a t e r , W i l l i a m s was i n v e r s i o n s of p h r a s e , "The  the f i r s t  t o admit t h a t Poems was  (IW,  K o r a , W i l l i a m s w i l l b l a s t those p o e t s who  the rhythm" (K, 32) an a r t i f i c i a l  of  the rhymes i n a c c u r a t e , the forms s t e r e o t y p e " (A,  poems are o b v i o u s l y young, o b v i o u s l y bad"  In  "full  10).  use language t o  to make i t conform to r i g i d p a t t e r n s , and who  p o e t i c method onto e x p e r i e n c e  to " l i f t  the " ' h i g h f a l u t i n ' "  (PO,  (IW,  14)  language of Poems.  In "The  poesy / The w h i l e we  And why?  g l i d e by many a l e a f y bay."  and h i s " l a d y " w i l l d r i f t  impose ruck" t o do  Uses of P o e t r y "  11), f o r i n s t a n c e , the poet has a "fond a n t i c i p a t i o n of a day  f i l l e d w i t h pure d i v e r s i o n p r e s e n t l y . "  "rectify  a l l out of the  (K, 32) o f the w o r l d : an exact measure of what he h i m s e l f attempts in  107);  /  O'er-  "For I must read a l a d y And  on t h i s same day,  away from a world of "woes" and be t r a n s p o r t e d  he  9  "On poesy's t r a n s f o r m i n g g i a n t wing, / To worlds a f a r whose f r u i t s a l l anguish mend.  Poems r e v e a l s W i l l i a m s ' i s o l a t e d s t a t e of mind a t t h i s time, the poems h e a v i l y dominated by a d i s g u i s e d p r i v a c y , the poet i n them wanting his  poems to l i f t  the  tensions of experience.  however, we  him i n t o some t r a n s c e n d e n t c o m p l e t i o n t h a t w i l l  resolve  Beneath the t r a n s p a r e n c y o f the language,  can d e t e c t a c e r t a i n s t r a i n , as i f W i l l i a m s were h i m s e l f aware  t h a t h i s poems a r e e n c l o s e d i n the p r i v a c y o f h i s i n t e n t i o n s , h i s speech c o n s t r i c t e d by h i s own  inability  to break through the c l o s e d forms o f  p e r c e p t i o n . i n which h i s mind i s caged. P o e t r y , " we  In the same poem, "The Uses of  glimpse b r i e f l y the q u a l i t y o f a w h o l l y d i f f e r e n t k i n d of  mind: " a t random p l a y / The g l o s s y b l a c k winged M a y - f l i e s . " image seems i t s e l f  T h i s sharp  to appear a t random, but i t i s almost l o s t i n a poem  t h a t i s b e i n g shaped by a predetermined end, "To worlds a f a r , " away from the  a i m l e s s p l a y of p a r t i c u l a r s .  Or i n "The F o l l y of P r e o c c u p a t i o n "  (PO, 20), we a r e t o l d t h a t " i m p e r f e c t i o n c l i n g s a l l forms about," and a s i d e from the f o r c e d i n v e r s i o n o f phrase the  poet who  d e s i r e s a "wisdom" to " o u t - f a c e " t h i s c o n d i t i o n i s ,  poem f o l l o w i n g , "The Bewilderment of  ("about" must rhyme w i t h " s t o u t " ) ,  o f Youth"  as the  (PO, 20) makes c l e a r , c o n s c i o u s  the a b e r r a t i o n a l n a t u r e of t h i n g s , t h e i r m u l t i p l i c i t y and i n d e t e r m i n a c y : . . . views forms which myriad seem, D i s t r a c t i n g h e r e , t h e r e , each w i t h changing gleam, L i k e f i r e f l i e s p o i n t i n g m i d n i g h t ' s c u r t a i n smooth. And a l l h i s purpose stands amazed, u n k n i t By wonder, knowing naught o f where nor why, Compassed about w i t h f r e s h v a r i e t y Where'er h i s c h a n c i n g eager l o o k s may f l i t .  "The Bewilderment  of Youth," p r e d i c t a b l y so, moves to o l d age when a l l  " v a r i e t y " w i l l mingle " i n t o one," to t h i s end, but the a c t u a l i t y o f a  the  10  "formless  rout" nevertheless  that s t r a i n s t h i s  All  pressure  closure.  the w h i l e W i l l i a m s  working as an i n t e r n , f i r s t and  remains t o e x e r t an unacknowledged  was assembling Poems f o r p u b l i c a t i o n , he was i n French H o s p i t a l , and then i n the Nursery  C h i l d ' s H o s p i t a l on the west s i d e o f New York, " i n a n o t o r i o u s  neighborhood c a l l e d San Juan H i l l , " Kitchen"  (A, 90).  o r more simply  "just plain Hell's  I n the Nursery and C h i l d ' s H o s p i t a l e s p e c i a l l y he was  i n i t i a t e d i n t o a sense o f l i f e - p r o c e s s e s q u i t e removed from t h e k i n d o f poetry  he was w r i t i n g i n h i s o f f - h o u r s ,  So he was l o n e l y . Doolittle  o r even from " p o e t r y "  at a l l !  Pound had gone o f f t o London, and soon a f t e r , H i l d a  (H.D.) f o l l o w e d ,  h i s " l a d y " i n "The Uses o f P o e t r y . "  They  were h i s o n l y poet-companions a t the U n i v e r s i t y o f • P e n n s y l v a n i a . was  left  to make h i s way i n the w o r l d o f m e d i c i n e .  Hell's Kitchen:  "There were s h o u t i n g s and near r i o t s and worse  p r a c t i c a l l y every week-end" (A, 93). in  Now he  t h e everyday l i f e  o f t h e c h i l d r e n ' s ward o f t h e h o s p i t a l .  a d m i n i s t r a t i o n was c o r r u p t , W i l l i a m s ' than one o c c a s i o n  The v i o l e n c e o f the a r e a was m i r r o r e d  full  "sleeping quarters  o f bedbugs" (A, 94),  The  . . . on more  so many i l l e g i t i m a t e b a b i e s  born there t h a t a M i s s Diamond suggested a banner w i t h the s i g n '"BABIES FRESH EVERY HOUR, ANY COLOR DESIRED, 100% ILLEGITIMATE!*" (A, 94). be hung around the h o s p i t a l .  And t h e r e were b a t t l e s among the women i n the ward,  once, f i v e pregant women " s n a r l i n g and s p i t t i n g l i k e c a t s , " two o f them apparently got  "pregnant from the same man" (A, 94).  Another time,  Williams  the j o b o f t r a n s p o r t i n g a dead c h i l d i n a s u i t c a s e "by p u b l i c con-  veyance," and he wondered what would; happen i f the r i c k e t y c o n t a i n e r s h o u l d f l y open and t h e body o f the c h i l d f a l l out j u s t a t t h e  11  wrong moment. I t e l l you I sweated over t h a t j o b , p l e n t y . (A, 96) Still  another time, W i l l i a m s had t o i m p r o v i s e a s o l u t i o n t o the bedbug  epidemic.  The ward was fumigated w i t h the fumes o f b a r - s u l p h u r s e t on  f i r e with alcohol.  "When we opened the p l a c e up l a t e r i n the day," he  r e c a l l s , "you never saw such heaps o f i n s e c t s on the f l o o r s and i n t h e c o r n e r s o f each bed!" (A, 98).  I s t h i s image maybe the b a s i s o f those  "forms which myriad seem" i n Poems?  I n any c a s e , the s t o r i e s  one a f t e r another i n an e n d l e s s stream. Autobiography  i s u n f a i l i n g here.  accumulate,  W i l l i a m s ' memory i n h i s  As an i n t e r n i n H e l l ' s K i t c h e n , he was  undergoing a major t r a n s f o r m a t i o n , the poet i n him b e i n g thrown i n t o another world t h a t had u n t i l now escaped him. W i l l i a m s d e c i d e d t o become a p e d i a t r i c i a n . knew a t once t h a t t h a t was my f i e l d " and permanent.  (A,  I t was a t t h i s time  that  " I was f a s c i n a t e d by i t and  95). The c h o i c e was  fundamental  He e n t e r e d , then and t h e r e , i n t o the realm o f c h i l d b i r t h ,  a woman's w o r l d h i s medicine gave a c c e s s t o : D u r i n g my time t h e r e I d e l i v e r e d t h r e e hundred b a b i e s and f a c e d e v e r y c o m p l i c a t i o n t h a t c o u l d be thought o f . I l e a r n e d t o know and t o admire women, o f a s o r t , i n t h a t p l a c e . They l e d a tough l i f e and s t i l l kept a s o r t o f g e n t l e n e s s and k i n d n e s s about them t h a t c o u l d , I t h i n k , beat a n y t h i n g a man might o f f e r under the same c i r c u m s t a n c e s . (A, 9 4 ) 7  During t h i s time, W i l l i a m s was g o i n g home to work on the poems gathered t o g e t h e r i n Poems where the immediacy — of  his life  —  as an i n t e r n i n New York was b e i n g t r a n s p o s e d i n t o poems t h a t  d i s f i g u r e d language, made i t conform a contemporary  t o h i s own sense o f d i s t a n c e from  a c t u a l i t y absent i n h i s p o e t i c endeavors.  c o n f e s s e d t h a t the poems were dominated be"  and c o m p l i c a t i o n  (IW, 1 4 ) .  He l a t e r  by "my i d e a o f what a poem s h o u l d  Should be: the r e l i a n c e upon predetermined  intentions i s  12  the v e r y narrowness t h a t makes Poems the p r o t o t y p e o f t h e k i n d o f compos i t i o n a l method t h a t W i l l i a m s  i n Kora would a t t a c k with, a vengeance, so  d i r e c t l y would he a s s o c i a t e i t , by then, w i t h w r i t i n g t h a t experience i n t o conventionalized present. surfaces  A s i g n o f the d i v o r c e  forces  forms that, p e r s i s t by c l o s i n g out the from the a c t u a l i m p l i c i t  i n Poems  i n the opening l i n e s o f "A S t r e e t Market, N.Y., 1908" (PO, 15): Eyes t h a t can s e e , Oh, what a r a r i t y ! For many a year gone by I've looked and n o t h i n g seen But e v e r been B l i n d t o a p a t e n t wide r e a l i t y .  The  v i z o r s are beginning to l i f t  from W i l l i a m s '  eyes, and as they do, we  can hear, however f r a g i l e l y , a poet who i s j u s t becoming aware o f the i s o l a t i n g e f f e c t o f h i s p r i v a c y and h i s s e p a r a t i o n has  y e t to experience i n i t s p a r t i c u l a r i t y .  Loneliness  of L i f e "  from a p r e s e n t  t h a t he  Or as we read i n "The  (PO, 16-17):  But now among low p l a i n s o r banks which r e a rT h e i r f l o w e r hung s c r e e n s o'erhead I wander — where? These f i e l d s I know not; know n o t whence I come; ;  Nor The And  Williams  aught o f a l l which spreads so t o u c h i n g n e a r . v e r y b i r d - s o n g s I have heard them n ' e r t h i s s t r a n g e f o l k they know n o t e'en my name.  e x p l a i n s , i n r e t r o s p e c t , t h a t the poems he was w r i t i n g  around 1909 "had t o be got out o f my system some way" (A, 106), so what b e t t e r way than t o p u b l i s h them h i m s e l f .  A little  f u r t h e r on i n the  same s e c t i o n o f h i s Autobiography he says t h a t " E z r a was s i l e n t , i f indeed he ever saw the t h i n g , which I hope he never d i d " (A, 107). But Williams  had sent a copy t o Pound i n London, and Pound had w r i t t e n an  uneasy (yet t r u t h f u l ) r e p l y . 1909,  The tone o f Pound's l e t t e r , dated May 21,  suggests t h a t he wanted t o be honest w i t h o u t unduly h u r t i n g  13  Williams' feelings.  Poems shows t h a t W i l l i a m s has " p o e t i c i n s t i n c t s , " but  o t h e r than t h a t , the book i s no d i f f e r e n t from "the innumerable p o e t i c volumes poured o u t " r e g u l a r l y i n London.  "Your book would n o t a t t r a c t  g even p a s s i n g a t t e n t i o n h e r e . "  No doubt W i l l i a m s was d i s a p p o i n t e d , and  y e t no doubt he knew t h a t Pound was r i g h t .  D e s p i t e a l l the best i n t e n t i o n s  on h i s p a r t , Poems was f i n a l l y n o t the k i n d o f book he wanted t o w r i t e ; no matter,  then,  ness t h e r e .  t h a t he d i d take the task o f p o e t r y s e r i o u s l y , no s l a c k -  T h i s may even be the same " i n t e n t " (A, 107) he l a t e r  con-  s i d e r e d the o n l y v a l u e i n a book he would o t h e r w i s e have p r e f e r r e d t o forget.  " I was t e r r i b l y e a r n e s t " (IW, 1 4 ) .  In any case, and f o r t u n a t e l y so, W i l l i a m s had no time t o d w e l l on the l i m i t s o f Poems.  The p u b l i c a t i o n brought one phase o f h i s l i f e  t o an end.  In J u l y , 1909, a f t e r o n l y a few months, he l e f t New York "on a s e c o n d - c l a s s v e s s e l f o r Germany" (A, 108) where he planned  t o study p e d i a t r i c s .  The  f o l l o w i n g y e a r , he would f i n a l l y get h i s chance t o see Pound: t h a t t o - b e - f o r g o t t e n week i n London i n A p r i l ,  1910 when he e x p e r i e n c e d  neverPound's  l i t e r a r y m i l i e u f i r s t - h a n d and had a chance t o hear. Yeats l e c t u r e — very fashionable a f f a i r , appears,  hated  "a  t o be p r e s i d e d over by S i r Edmund Gosse, who, i t  the Irishman's  guts"  (A, 115).  During Y e a t s ' d i s c u s s i o n o f younger I r i s h poets who were, i n h i s mind, u n j u s t l y n e g l e c t e d i n England, and  continued  Gosse i n p r o t e s t r u d e l y banged a b e l l  t o do t h i s each time Yeats  A f t e r the t h i r d  t r i e d t o c a r r y on h i s d i s c u s s i o n .  time, Yeats was " f o r c e d t o s i t down and the l e c t u r e came  to an end" (A, 115). What c o n t i n u e d  t o d w e l l i n W i l l i a m s ' memory,  however, was n o t simply the c a l l o u s n e s s o f the event evidence  t h a t E n g l i s h p o e t r y was l i t e r a l l y  itself  —  living  c o n t r o l l e d by the heavy hand o f  14  authority — the nerve  but the f a c t t h a t no one i n t h e audience, n o t even Pound, had  t o p r o t e s t Gosse's a c t i o n s .  Williams.  No one defended  Y e a t s , n o t even  And so W i l l i a m s r e c a l l s h i s own i n a b i l i t y : What a chance i t had been f o r me — but. I wasn't up t o it. I must have shown by my f a c e , however, how near I was t o a n . e x p l o s i o n , f o r a woman back o f me, an e x t r a o r d i n a r y - l o o k i n g woman, almost spoke — but d i d n ' t , and so I sank back once more i n t o anonymity. (A, 116)  London was n o t Williams.' p l a c e , and t h i s a t l e a s t was c l e a r : " I t seemed completely  f o r e i g n to anything I d e s i r e d .  I was g l a d t o get away"  (A, 117).  It  i s n e v e r t h e l e s s a s t r a n g e turnabout  — t h o u g h not altogether so,  Pound b e i n g a t t h a t time h i s o n l y l i n k to a l i t e r a r y w o r l d —  that  W i l l i a m s ' f i r s t magazine p u b l i c a t i o n would appear two y e a r s l a t e r i n the same " f o r e i g n " p l a c e he was " g l a d t o g e t away" from, and w i t h a "Note" by Pound i n t r o d u c i n g him t o a B r i t i s h audience Pound p o i n t s t o W i l l i a m s ' honesty his  as a younger American  poet.  ("He has n o t s o l d h i s s o u l t o e d i t o r s " ) ,  s t r e n g t h ("He has n o t complied w i t h t h e i r niminy-piminy  restrictions"),  and h i s s t r a i g h t - t a l k i n g manner ('.'He a p p a r e n t l y means what he says") , a l l of  which i n d i c a t e s the emergence o f a poet who "may w r i t e some v e r y good  poetry."  Pound then goes on to a f f i r m , the absence i n The Tempers o f one  q u a l i t y which had been w r i t t e n a l l over Poems: "the magazine t o u c h " which feeds on c o n v e n t i o n a l , e x p e c t a t i o n s o f what p o e t r y s h o u l d be.  Pound a l s o  c o n f e s s e s h i s " f e e l i n g o f companionship" w i t h an American poet w i t h whom he can " t a l k w i t h o u t a l e x i c o n . " to  T h i s f r e e - w h e e l i n g tone seems i n t e n d e d  taunt h i s s o - c a l l e d " c r i t i c a l E n g l i s h a u d i e n c e , " but i n t h e b r i e f  15  l i n e s he quotes  —  . . . crowded L i k e peasants to a f a i r , C l e a r s k i n n e d , w i l d from s e c l u s i o n ^ —  the a c c u r a c y of the image and  immediately a g r e a t were one its  own  the d i r e c t n e s s of the syntax r e v e a l  change i n W i l l i a m s '  poetry.  I t i s as i f W i l l i a m s  of the peasants " w i l d from s e c l u s i o n , " h i s own  himself  n a t u r e coming i n t o  through a language charged w i t h d e s i r e .  Pound's i n f l u e n c e i s p r e s e n t of " F i r s t P r a i s e , " f o r  i n The  Tempers, the P r o v e n c a l  quality  instance:  Lady of dusk-wood f a s t n e s s e s , Thou a r t my Lady. I have known the c r i s p , s p l i n t e r i n g l e a f - t r e a d w i t h thee on b e f o r e , White, s l e n d e r through green s a p l i n g s ; I have l a i n by thee on the brown f o r e s t f l o o r Beside thee, my Lady. (CEP, 17) But  the temper of the whole volume d i s p l a y s a much d i f f e r e n t W i l l i a m s .  "There i s , " we first new  are  t o l d i n I Wanted, to W r i t e a Poem, "a b i g jump from  book to the poems i n The  (CEP,  In " P o s t l u d e "  16).^  modified,  The  The  we  15).  What i s s t r i k i n g i s the  f i n d the l i n e , "Blue at the prow of my  image r e t u r n s  at the end  of the  more e x p l i c i t , more d e c l a r a t i v e : "The  the s h i p ' s prow" (K, 28).  in  (IW,  push toward a r e - v a l u a t i o n of d e s i r e , the same d e s i r e t h a t was  i n Poems.  The  Tempers  Tempers h i s f i r s t d i r e c t contrast  desire"  poet should  be  S l e n d e r as the volume was,  t h i s change:  Your h a i r i s my Carthage And my arms the bow, And our words arrows  as one  but  forever  at  considered i t did,  to Poems, a l l o w f o r the b i r t h of a more a u t h e n t i c  f o l l o w i n g l i n e s from " P o s t l u d e , "  mind, exemplify  confined  " P r o l o g u e " to Kora,  For the r e s t of h i s l i f e , W i l l i a m s  s e r i o u s book.  the  voice.  example which comes q u i c k l y  to  16  To shoot the s t a r s Who from t h a t m i s t y sea Swarm to d e s t r o y us; (CEP, The  poet who  orders  surfaces  i n The  16)  Tempers i s r e s t l e s s w i t h narrow c o n f i n i n g  t h a t deny the a c t u a l i t y of d e s i r e : We r e v e l i n the sea's green'. Come p l a y : I t i s forbidden'. (CEP, 20)  The  siren voice  i n these f i n a l l i n e s of the poem "Prom 'The  Song" c a l l s out  s e d u c t i v e l y to those who  will  f o l l o w the l e a d of i t s " f o r -  b i d d e n " movement; i t s p l a y f u l tone p u l l s the r e a d e r out laughter  B i r t h of Venus,'  to the sea of a  s t r a i n i n g to break f r e e from i n h i b i t i o n s t h a t c o n f i n e  counterpart  desire.  The  to t h i s female v o i c e speaks through a f o o l ' s v o i c e , t h a t i s ready  to break out of i t s cage in."The F o o l ' s  Song":  I t r i e d to put a b i r d i n a cage, 0 f o o l t h a t I am! For the b i r d was T r u t h . S i n g m e r r i l y , T r u t h : I t r i e d to put T r u t h i n a cage! (CEP, 19)  This loosening  of d e s i r e . i n t u r n makes p o s s i b l e a n o t i c e a b l e  away from the former r e l i a n c e on what p o e t r y speech i s sharp and phrase, no  should  say.  In "Con  The mind i n s i d e the words c u t s a c r o s s m i s e r l i n e s s " of p e t t y orders  Bah,  Brio"  cutting, no•sliding off into strained inversions  attempt to f o r c e words i n t o an a r t i f i c i a l l y balanced  neatness c o n t r a r y  shift  the g r a i n o f the  of  syntax.  "perdamnable  t h a t attempt to f r e e z e the world i n t o a  to i t s n a t u r a l rhythms:  t h i s s o r t of s l i t h e r i s below contempt!  In the same v e i n we should have apple t r e e s exempt From b e a r i n g a n y t h i n g hut p i n k blossoms a l l the y e a r , F i x e d permanent l e s t t h e i r b e l l i e s wax unseemly, and the Innocent days o f them be wasted q u i t e . (CEP, 31) Pregnant a p p l e s ,  the i n s i s t e n c e of b i r t h , the  f a c t of i t i n a world  dear  that  the  17  can never be " F i x e d permanent":' W i l l i a m s ' e x p e r i e n c e as an i n t e r n comes home to r o o s t .  In The Tempers the p h y s i c a l i t y o f d e s i r e , as w e l l as the  p h y s i c a l i t y of the w o r l d , a s s e r t s i t s e l f . of  e s t r a n g i n g h i m s e l f from those systems  The poet, caught i n the midst ( p o e t i c , m o r a l , s o c i a l or o t h e r -  wise) t h a t deny d e s i r e , thus r e - e n t e r s the w o r l d from i t s "back s i d e " (K, 80), to use a key phrase from Kora.  "Hie J a c e t , " i n t h i s sense, stands  as a measure o f the jump from Poems to The  Tempers:  The c o r o n e r ' s merry l i t t l e c h i l d r e n Have such t w i n k l i n g brown eyes. T h e i r f a t h e r i s not o f gay men And t h e i r mother j o c u l a r i n no w i s e , Y e t the c o r o n e r ' s merry l i t t l e c h i l d r e n Laugh so e a s i l y . They l a u g h because they p r o s p e r . F r u i t f o r them i s upon a l l branches. Lo! how they j i b e a t l o s s , f o r K i n d heaven f i l l s t h e i r l i t t l e paunches'. I t ' s the c o r o n e r ' s merry, merry c h i l d r e n Who l a u g h so e a s i l y . (CEP, 30)  What stands out i n t h i s l o v e l y s h o r t poem i s the almost  perfectly,  but not q u i t e , b a l a n c e d o p p o s i t i o n between the form and the s u b j e c t of the poem.  The two s t a n z a s echo one another i n rhythm, language, and  There a r e rhymes but they are " i r r e g u l a r b e g i n n i n g t o end"  (IW,  15).  . . . yet u n i t i v e , carrying.from  When they are r e g u l a r , the rhymes  "eyes"/"wise" and "men"/"children") a r e p l a y f u l , themselves as rhymes.  and "branches"/"paunches")  the word "paunches"  appearance if  they c a l l a t t e n t i o n to  The near rhymes i n s t a n z a two  to  ("prosper"/  are a l s o j u s t as p l a y f u l , near rhymes,  n o t h i n g more, no d i s f i g u r a t i o n of the language And  (like  There i s no p r e t e n s i o n behind them, no attempt  disguise their p a r t i c u l a r i t y . "for"  structure.  to f i n d the c o r r e c t rhyme.  s t r i k e s home, the suddenness  of i t s c o l l o q u i a l  i n an o t h e r w i s e c o n v e n t i o n a l l i n e o f m e t r i c a l p o e t r y , almost as  the poet were t r y i n g t o d i s l o c a t e the r e a d e r ' s e x p e c t a t i o n w i t h an  18  exact word t h a t , as such., works to undermine the a p p a r e n t l y r e g u l a t e d form of  the poem.  T h i s t e n s i o n between predetermined  metrical patterns  and  p r e c i s e wording i s the exact double of the s p l i t p e r c e p t i o n w i t h i n the•poem. Death can,  from a p e r s p e c t i v e o u t s i d e the c o n v e n t i o n a l i z e d p e r c e p t i o n s  which d i s g u i s e i t , be at  fruitful.  Look, says  the "paunches" of the coroner's  the f o o l of a poet, j u s t  "merry c h i l d r e n . "  d o c t o r - W i l l i a m s moves i n s i d e the p o e t - W i l l i a m s , w i t h i n the  The neat and  Once a g a i n ,  the one  other.  form o f "Hie J a c e t " i s thus d e c e p t i v e .  I n s i d e the  apparently  o r d e r l y e x t e r i o r t h e r e i s a l i v e mind a t work, watching  t h r i v i n g i n them.  W i l l i a m s says he was,  detachment from the w o r l d  at the time, " c o n s c i o u s  (IW,  16).  The  from the narrow p e r c e p t i o n s of Poems a l l o w i n g him  because he "was  Tempers he was  (IW,  18).  assuming a shape of i t s own: i n my  to re-view  own  In the "Prologue"  mother as the f i g u r e of  s e a r c h i n g about f o r "a new  The w r i t i n g l i f e was, " I was  16).  the  order" me,  so i t seemed,  budding, had no  power, but I wanted to make a p o e t r y of my  began to come" (IW,  severance  his  p o s i t i v e l y r e p e l l e d by the o l d o r d e r which, to  amounted to r e s t r i c t i o n "  confidence  moving as a more  Tempers, the  inside i t s objectivity.  Kora, Williams w i l l e n v i s i o n h i s estranged In The  i n her  as a f o r e i g n e r l i k e h i s mother would, o u t s i d e but  c u r i o u s l y , f o r t h i s reason,  imagination.  my  same detachment, and a s i m i l a r  pathos i n W i l l i a m s , made p o s s i b l e the poems i n The  i n i t s otherness,  of  of R u t h e r f o r d , because of t h i s d i s t a n c e , c o u l d  see i t s i n s u l a r forms as a " f a n t a s t i c world where she was or l e s s p a t h e t i c f i g u r e "  and  actually  mother's i n f l u e n c e " : E l e n a Hoheb, a s t r a n g e r to America who,  finally  the  asserting i t s e l f  w a i t i n g f o r i t s t u r n , a t t e n t i v e to c o n t r a d i c t i o n s , i n f a c t  world  look  real own  and i t  to  19  From 1913,  and perhaps from the Armory Show on, W i l l i a m s began to  t u r n more and more t o h i s own writing.  immediate w o r l d  H i s c i r c l e of f r i e n d s h i p s i n New  i n c l u d e the p a i n t e r s and w r i t e r s who,  behind him, W i l l i a m s was  York q u i c k l y expanded to  l i k e h i m s e l f , were h u n t i n g f o r  forms to accommodate t h e i r sense of the New, By then, h i s London e x p e r i e n c e s t i l l  f o r the r e s o u r c e s of h i s  new  both i n p a i n t i n g and writing."'"'*"  f r e s h i n mind, Poems and The Most of h i s  enthusiasm  found a f o c u s i n the Grantwood group of p a i n t e r s and w r i t e r s who  clustered  around W a l t e r Arensberg  hungry f o r companionship.  Tempers  and A l f r e d . Kreymborg.  w i t h h i s w i f e and e d i t e d Others magazine.  Kreymborg l i v e d i n Grantwood  Pound t o l d Kreymborg t o get i n  12 touch w i t h W i l l i a m s .  I t was  t o Grantwood t h a t W i l l i a m s , whenever he  c o u l d get away from R u t h e r f o r d , would d r i v e to see Kreymborg and In Troubadour, h i s autobiography snap-shot  the o t h e r s .  of t h i s p e r i o d , Kreymborg p r e s e r v e s a  of W i l l i a m s p u l l i n g i n t o Grantwood i n h i s c a r : One man, l o o k i n g l i k e Don Quixote de l a Mancha d r i v i n g the r u s t y Rosinante, - came 'in. a. b a t t e r e d , two-^seated F o r d . Though the a c t u a l p l a c e he s t a r t e d from was an u g l y town, c a l l e d R u t h e r f o r d , t h e r e was enough of the S p a n i a r d i n h i s b l o o d and the madman i n h i s eye and p r o f i l e to have warranted the comparison. Whenever he climbed down from the s a d d l e , w i t h an o a t h or a b l e s s i n g , he d i s c l o s e d the b o l d o r b a s h f u l f e a t u r e s o f E z r a Pound's o l d and Krimmie's new f r i e n d , Dr. W i l l i a m C a r l o s W i l l i a m s . 1 3  And  a g a i n s t Kreymborg's i m p r e s s i o n s of W i l l i a m s ' energy, W i l l i a m s '  memory o f t h i s same p e r i o d of h i s  life:  There was a t t h a t time a g r e a t surge of i n t e r e s t i n the a r t s g e n e r a l l y b e f o r e the F i r s t World War. New York was seething with i t . P a i n t i n g took the l e a d . (A, 134)  own  20  Grantwood was the f o c u s o f a l l these e v e n t s . I was hugely e x c i t e d by what was t a k i n g p l a c e t h e r e . For some unapparent r e a s o n , someone, y e a r s b e f o r e , had b u i l t s e v e r a l wooden shacks t h e r e i n the woods, perhaps a summer c o l o n y , why, I cannot say — a t l e a s t they were t h e r e and were r e n t e d f o r next to n o t h i n g . S e v e r a l w r i t e r s were i n v o l v e d , but the focus o f my own enthusiasm was the house o c c u p i e d by A l f r e d and Gertrude Kreymborg to which, on every p o s s i b l e o c c a s i o n , I went madly i n my f l i v v e r to h e l p w i t h the magazine which had saved my l i f e as a w r i t e r . (A, 135)  For the f i r s t  time, W i l l i a m s found some semblance o f the community  of w r i t e r s he had always yearned f o r , those who  were a l l i n v o l v e d i n the  excitement o f a p o s s i b l e b e g i n n i n g i n t h e i r own  locale, i n local  America.  "There had been a break somewhere," he w r i t e s , we were s t r e a m i n g through, each t h i n k i n g h i s own thoughts, d r i v i n g h i s own d e s i g n s toward h i s s e l f ' s o b j e c t i v e s . Whether the Armory Show i n p a i n t i n g d i d i t or whether t h a t a l s o was no more than a f a c e t — the p o e t i c l i n e , the way the image was to l i e on the page was our immediate concern. For myself a l l t h a t i m p l i e d , i n the m a t e r i a l s , r e s p e c t i n g the p l a c e I knew b e s t , was f i n d i n g a l o c a l a s s e r t i o n — to my e v e r l a s t i n g r e l i e f . I had never i n my l i f e b e f o r e f e l t t h a t way. I was tremendously s t i r r e d . (A, 138) And  so d u r i n g the p e r i o d from 1913  to 1916,  w r i t e r s and p a i n t e r s , e x c i t e d t h a t a new  knee-deep i n a new  p o e t r y was  world o f  l y i n g t h e r e on the  h o r i z o n w a i t i n g to be un-covered., W i l l i a m s began to w r i t e poems i n e a r n e s t , t r y i n g to c l e a r h i s speech of a l l a r t i f i c i a l i t i e s  of d i c t i o n ,  experimenting  w i t h a p o e t i c l i n e more n a t u r a l to a c t u a l speech p a t t e r n s , the images drawn from h i s immediate s u r r o u n d i n g s — gathered t o g e t h e r i n A l Que  a l l the f r u i t s of which he  Quiere.' h i s t h i r d book o f poems, p u b l i s h e d by  The Four Seas Company o f Boston i n 1917.  "From t h i s time on," W i l l i a m s  says i n I_ Wanted to W r i t e j i Poem, "you can see the s t r u g g l e to get a form w i t h o u t deforming the language. reflect  t h i n g s around me"  (IW,  In theme, the poems of A l Que 23).  And y e s , the language  Quiere!  i s direct,  rhythm o f speech w i t h o u t the a r t i f i c e o f meter and rhyme, as say i n  the  21  " P a s t o r a l " which b e g i n s : When I was younger i t was p l a i n to me I must make something  of m y s e l f . (CEP,  121)  L i n e breaks f o l l o w the syntax o f the f l u i d movement of p e r c e p t i o n , as i n another poem c a l l e d  "Pastoral:"  The l i t t l e sparrows hop i n g e n u o u s l y about the pavement quarreling w i t h sharp v o i c e s over those t h i n g s t h a t i n t e r e s t them. (CEP, And  l i k e the sparrow h i m s e l f , the poet i n A l Que  i n t e r e s t s him,  own  the same mind i n "Hie  community: l o c a l f a c t s , d a i s i e s and c h i c o r y , p o p l a r t r e e s ,  the young housewife who  husband's house" the  life,  The images are  coming out i n t o the open a i r to see what t h e r e i s to see i n h i s  f i g u r e s l i k e "the o l d man or  h i s l o c a l world,  addresses as a poet.  c l o s e i n , near the s k i n o f h i s immediate  J a c e t " now  Quiere.' comes down to what  a more common e a r t h , the one which grounds  t h a t of h i s "townspeople" whom he now all  124)  goes about  / g a t h e r i n g dog-lime"  of  mud"  —  " S p r i n g c l o s e s me  r e v e a l s "a d i g n i t y  157), and so on.  little  daughter"  124),  (CEP,  155),  / t h a t i s d i g n i t y , the d i g n i t y /  Many poems d e a l w i t h the a r r i v a l of s p r i n g  i n / w i t h h e r arms and her hands" (CEP, 120)  phase o f e x i s t e n c e i n which the dark e a r t h d i s c l o s e s i t s e l f nameless  (CEP,  comes out from "behind / the wooden w a l l s o f her  (CEP, 136), the "murderer's  c a t " K a t h l e e n " who (CEP,  who  neighborhood  p a r t i c u l a r s making up the .poet's l o c a l w o r l d .  —  a  through the  In A l Que  Quiere!  he senses the presence o f f o r c e s p u s h i n g to break i n t o the i n s u l a r i t y of his  townspeople.  They use r e l i g i o n to b l o c k out the v e r y t e n s i o n s he  attempts to h o l d onto, i n "Winter Sunset," f o r i n s t a n c e ; above the d e c o r a t i v e c l o u d s on:a h i l l .stands- "one opaque / stone, o f a c l o u d , " and  22  above the c l o u d , "a red s t r e a k , then / i c y b l u e sky" (CEP, 127).  And  the  poet comments: I t was a f e a r f u l t h i n g to come i n t o a man's h e a r t a t t h a t time; t h a t stone over the l i t t l e b l i n k i n g s t a r s they'd s e t t h e r e . (CEP, 127)  Running through A l Que  Q u i e r e ! i s t h i s p r e s s u r e of a l a r g e n e s s s u r -  rounding the p a r t i c u l a r s of the l o c a l .  Here the movement of g u l l s spans  empty space so opaque t h a t i t w i l l not admit  of t r a n s p a r e n c y .  an  And a l l t h i s  happens i n the midst of what i s c l o s e a t hand: i n a walk b e f o r e b r e a k f a s t w i t h the poet and h i s son i n "Promenade" (CEP, 132-134), i n the glimpse o f a b i r d " i n the p o p l a r s " who  becomes a " M e t r i c F i g u r e " (CEP, 123), o r i n a  t u r n up the back s i d e o f a s t r e e t where the houses of the poor show the absence  o f the k i n d of o r d e r t h a t shuts the world out  —  r o o f out of l i n e w i t h s i d e s the yards c l u t t e r e d w i t h o l d c h i c k e n w i r e , ashes, f u r n i t u r e gone wrong (CEP, 121) And  the poet c o n c l u d e s : No one w i l l b e l i e v e  this  o f v a s t import to the n a t i o n (CEP, I f the poet o f Poems was  121)  o v e r l y c o n s c i o u s of h i s own  which spreads so t o u c h i n g near,!' i n A l Que  d i v o r c e from  Q u i e r e ! t h i s same poet  to c l o s e the gap by p a y i n g a t t e n t i o n to those l o c a l p a r t i c u l a r s no e l s e seems to n o t i c e .  These t h i n g s go u n n o t i c e d because  "all attempts one  they are simply  t h e r e , l i k e f a c e s t h a t go u n r e c o g n i z e d up and down the s t r e e t s of the town. In "Apology," w r i t i n g thus comes, of a n e c e s s i t y through i t s l o c a l i z a t i o n i n a s p e c i f i c p l a c e : The beauty of the t e r r i b l e f a c e s of our n o n e n t i t i e s s t i r s me t o i t : (CEP  ,131)  to r e v e a l the hear world  23  T h i s "beauty" remains hidden p r e c i s e l y because i t i s so near, b e i n g the v e r y world we cularity.  are i n because we  so  immediate,  are a l i v e , common i n our  J u s t t h i s , our " n o n e n t i t i e s , " which the poet i n A l Que  partiQuiere!  comes to from o u t s i d e the s e l f - r e f e r e n t i a l forms of h i s "townspeople;" h i s estrangement, i n t h i s sense,  i s a way  back i n t o a p r e s e n t resonant w i t h a  subversive d e s i r e : Love i s so p r e c i o u s my townspeople t h a t i f I were you I would have i t under l o c k and key — l i k e the a i r o r the A t l a n t i c o r l i k e p o e t r y ! (CEP, 156) Or i n the l o v e l y poem "Love Song," the second to l a s t of the volume, encounter  the f i g u r e of the l o v e r i n s i d e the d e n s i t y of an  we  earth-world  v i b r a n t w i t h f o r c e s and powers t h a t a r e woven i n t o the p h y s i c a l f a b r i c o f things.  T h i s e a r t h - p u l l i s so s t r o n g t h a t i t p u l l s the poet's h e a r t  into  i t s l i q u i d play: I l i e here  t h i n k i n g of you:  —  the s t a i n of l o v e i s upon the w o r l d ! Y e l low, y e l l o w , y e l l o w i t e a t s i n t o the l e a v e s , smears w i t h s a f f r o n the horned branches t h a t l e a n heavily a g a i n s t a smooth p u r p l e sky! (CEP,  The It"  t i t l e A l Que  174)  Q u i e r e ! t r a n s l a t e d by W i l l i a m s reads  "To Him Who  Wants  (A, 157), and i n t h i s t h i r d book o f poems, he c l e a r l y wants to h i t out  on h i s own  and  c r e a t e a r e a d e r s h i p f o r h i s poems, not v i c e - v e r s a .  He  no  longer t r i e s  to pander to c o n v e n t i o n a l e x p e c t a t i o n s of what a poem ought  to be.  i n f a c t , the o p p o s i t e p o s i t i o n a t t r a c t s him..  (CEP,  Now, 126)  The  " t r u e music"  o f p o e t r y works c o n t r a r y to h a b i t u a t e d forms of p e r c e p t i o n , the  r e a l poet always the one who  walks the back s t r e e t s , on the o t h e r s i d e of.  24  the forms h i s townspeople l i y e i n . a s s e r t i o n i s perhaps t h i s time? —  a little  all  stylized —  who was W i l l i a m s as a poet a t  but t h e r e was a f u t u r e t o a c t u a l i z e and now seemed the  r i g h t moment to make a s t a r t . of  The bravado behind t h i s i m p l i e d  T h i s i n s i s t e n c e becomes the announcement  "Sub T e r r a , " the opening poem o f the c o l l e c t i o n .  Here W i l l i a m s e n v i s i o n s  o f h i s p o t e n t i a l companions underground, l i k e "seven y e a r l o c u s t s /  w i t h cased wings," l y i n g dormant but w a i t i n g t o be r e - b o r n i n a s p r i n g t i m e when they s h a l l r e t u r n t o the s u r f a c e o f the e a r t h —  a premonition of  the f i g u r e o f Kora i n Kora i n H e l l : That h a r v e s t t h a t s h a l l be your advent — t h r u s t i n g up through the g r a s s , up under the weeds answering me, t h a t w i l l be s a t i s f y i n g ! The l i g h t s h a l l l e a p and snap t h a t day as w i t h a m i l l i o n l a s h e s ! (CEP, 117)  A p p r o p r i a t e l y enough, A l Que Q u i e r e ! has t i e s w i t h Kreymborg, a c l o s e companion d u r i n g t h i s time.  T a l k i n g about  the t i t l e ,  W i l l i a m s says  that  " A l f r e d Kreymborg n o t i c e d t h a t the cacophony was a r e - e c h o i n g o f h i s name and f e l t  complimented.  We were v e r y c l o s e f r i e n d s then and I t h i n k h i s  surmise was a proper one" (A, 157). And the volume concludes w i t h the one poem — around festo.  a r e w r i t i n g o f a l o n g n a r r a t i v e poem W i l l i a m s was working on  1909 and which he abandoned then —  t h a t reads as a k i n d o f mani-  The c e n t r a l event o f "The Wanderer" i s the r i t u a l i s t i c baptism o f  the poet i n t o the f i l t h y P a s s a i c R i v e r through the agency o f a m a g i c a l o l d woman.  She i n i t i a t e s him i n t o the t r a n s f o r m a t i o n a l n a t u r e o f p r o c e s s , and  by so d o i n g , m a r r i e s him t o the body o f the w o r l d .  "The Wanderer" was pub-  l i s h e d a few y e a r s e a r l i e r , i n 1914, i n The E g o i s t , but i t s i n c l u s i o n i n Al  Que Q u i e r e ! p o i n t s t o W i l l i a m s ' b e l i e f i n the p o s s i b i l i t y o f a f u t u r e .  25  There i s s t i l l more to come.  I f t h e r e had excitement  to be one  of h i s new  found  c l i m a c t i c moment i n W i l l i a m s ' l i f e when a l l the f r i e n d s h i p s came to a head, i t would have to  be the l a r g e p a r t y he and F l o s s —  " s i x months pregnant"  at t h e i r home i n R u t h e r f o r d i n the s p r i n g of 1916. group came, p o e t s and p a i n t e r s , and i n t o Monday; as W i l l i a m s says, "We (A, 153).  The  Arensbergs  —  (A, 152)  Everyone i n the  threw Others  the p a r t y l a s t e d a l l day Sunday and f e d 'em  and wined 'em  a l l day  long"  were t h e r e , M a r c e l Duchamp, Kreymborg, Man  Ray,  Alanson Hartpence, Maxwell Bodenheim, and many more, the whole "gang" t h a t made up W i l l i a m s ' l i t e r a r y m i l i e u i n and around New out a l l day over the lawn. was  I f a n y t h i n g was  a good p a r t y " (A, 153).  the energy of new  "We  were i n and  s a i d I've f o r g o t t e n i t . or e a r l y i n 1917,  Yet i t  however, a l l  p o s s i b i l i t i e s i n the w o r l d of " l e t t e r s , " to use W i l l i a m s '  term, seemed to e x p i r e almost blamed the war  L a t e r i n 1916,  York.  as suddenly  as i t appeared.  t h a t America e n t e r e d i n A p r i l ,  1917  Williams  f o r b l o t t i n g the r e 16  awakening out, and 1916,  i n a way,  h i s assessment i s a c c u r a t e .  t h e r e i s a l r e a d y an i n d i c a t i o n t h a t he was  e f f e c t i v e n e s s of the s o - c a l l e d "Others In a r e v e a l i n g a r t i c l e c a l l e d  beginning  to doubt  the  the A r t of P o e t r y , "  are g i v e n an i n s i g h t i n t o h i s  e v a l u a t i o n of contemporary w r i t i n g a t t h i s time.  In the process of g l o s s i n g  the s t r e n g t h s and weaknesses of .various r e c e n t magazines — P o e t r y J o u r n a l , Contemporary Verse, The admits t h a t Others  late  movement."  "America, Whitman, and  which W i l l i a m s never r e - p u b l i s h e d , we  But by  has not proven to be,  Soil,  Poetry,  to name a"few -- he  as i t had  i n t e n d e d to be,  The  - • the  26  s t r o n g f r o n t f o r new  forms of w r i t i n g .  "Ah,  but O t h e r s , " he w r i t e s ,  the magazine w i t h which I am connected, i s of course excellent. Here we have an attempt to p r e s e n t a blank page to Tom, D i c k and Harry w i t h the i n v i t a t i o n to w r i t e a m a s t e r p i e c e upon i t . I f Others came out once o r twice every t h r e e y e a r s and c o n s i s t e d of f o u r pages i t would be the i d e a l magazine f o r p o e t s . I t i s a t l e a s t naked. 'But the r a i n i t r a i n e t h every day.'-^ The  f o o l ' s v o i c e a g a i n , q u o t i n g Shakespeare's K i n g L e a r t o c r i t i c i z e  the  p r e t e n t i o u s n e s s of a magazine t h a t began w i t h the h i g h e s t i n t e n t i o n s  but  which, l i k e a l l the r e s t , f i n a l l y any "Tom, his  own  Dick and H a r r y " can p u b l i s h i n i t . work was  c l e a r t o him  little  j u s t as p r e t e n t i o u s ?  t h a t the new  e a r l y as 1913, And now  s e t t l e d i n t o a s t e r e o t y p i c a l form.  or 1914,  He  Was  Now  Williams f e e l i n g that  does not say, but the message i s  p o e t i c which so many of them had i n t u i t e d  the year Others began, was  simply not  as  arriving.  the c u r r e n t magazines seemed to be r e t r e a t i n g i n t o narrow c l i q u e s , niches, enclaves of, i n short, p e r s o n a l i z e d s t y l e s : E i t h e r a magazine i s concerned w i t h i t s own pet l i t t l e a v e r s i o n s , or i t i s too poor to e x i s t , o r i t i s hopel e s s l y w i t h o u t agbroad comprehension of what modern v e r s e i s about.  T h i s l a s t statement  l e a d s W i l l i a m s to suspect t h a t h i s  contemporaries  r e a l l y have not moved beyond the opening p r o v i d e d by Whitman who, y e a r s b e f o r e them, began the s e r i o u s e x p l o r a t i o n of the groundwork of a l l forms, w i t h new  "democratic  b a s i c elements t h a t can be comprehended and  broken down f a r enough?" W i l l i a m s a s k s , o r i s t h e r e  work to be done b e f o r e new share can be p o s s i b l e ?  appeared  50  used  force.  "Have we  all  over  work t h a t does, i n deed, m i r r o r the age "America,  Whitman, and  i n The P o e t r y J o u r n a l i n November, 1917,  f i r s t of the i m p r o v i s a t i o n s from Kora appeared  still they  the A r t of P o e t r y " o n l y a month a f t e r  i n The L i t t l e Review,  the 20  and  27  Williams'  misgivings  concerning  Others i s an i n d i c a t i o n t h a t something had  happened i n h i s mind t o a l t e r h i s former f a i t h , i n the magazine.  He was t o  p u b l i s h a group o f s i x t e e n poems i n the December, 1916 i s s u e o f O t h e r s , but  a f t e r t h a t , he stopped p u b l i s h i n g w i t h t h e same magazine t h a t had  "saved h i s l i f e 1919,  as a w r i t e r . "  He would n o t p u b l i s h i n Others u n t i l J u l y ,  t h r e e y e a r s l a t e r , when he e d i t e d an i s s u e and announced t h a t i t had  come to i t s end, t h a t the magazine was, i n e f f e c t , d e f u n c t , f i n a l one.  During t h i s p e r i o d , Williams  h i s issue i t s  was to w r i t e what e v e n t u a l l y  turned  i n t o Kora i n H e l l .  Perhaps the demise o f Others was i n e v i t a b l e . soon wore t h i n , and n o t h i n g its  excitement  s i g n i f i c a n c e had come o f  I n f a c t , the w r i t e r s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the magazine  could  now continue p u b l i s h i n g whatever they wished, no one would r e a l l y  care.  The  existence.  of earth-shattering  The i n i t i a l  l a r g e - s c a l e r e s t r u c t u r i n g of w r i t i n g that before  j u s t as f a r away as ever.  Williams  began t o p u l l away, back t o  Because o f h i s l o s s o f b e l i e f i n Others? continue t o w r i t e end,  seemed p o s s i b l e was Rutherford.  Or h i s f e a r t h a t he too would  the same k i n d o f poems i n A l Que Q u i e r e ! f o r y e a r s on  maybe i n time g e t t i n g h a l f - h e a r t e d  r e c o g n i t i o n as a minor l y r i c  of " l o c a l " i n t e r e s t i n the development o f 20th century  In "The I d e a l Q u a r r e l , " a s h o r t p i e c e p u b l i s h e d  poet  American p o e t r y ?  i n the December, 1918  i s s u e o f The L i t t l e Review, two;years a f t e r , he stopped p u b l i s h i n g w i t h Others, Williams  t a l k s about the n e c e s s i t y f o r anger, the f o r c e o f i t a p o s i t i v e  t h r u s t forward t h a t s p i t s "through a mush o f lumpy s t u f f —  mouldy words,  l i e - c l o t s , " anger the v e r y n e g a t i o n t h a t g i v e s way t o a "new a l i g n m e n t . " But  the new s h i f t  cannot simply  be based upon a d e n i a l o f the p a s t .  depends upon a f u l l - s c a l e d e s t r u c t i o n o f the past which b r i n g s  It  the p a s t  28 into a present  t h a t demands to be r e c o g n i z e d i n i t s terms.  a c c o r d i n g to W i l l i a m s , no o t h e r way  to b e g i n  There i s ,  again.  For to break and b e g i n a new alignment i s r e c a p i t u l a t i o n but to recement an o l d and d i s s o l v i n g union i s w i t h o u t precedent, a t o t a l l y new t h i n g . The o l d union i n t h i s case i s a p a r t of the new and b e i n g d i r e c t l y a p a r t needs no c o u n t e r p a r t , the recemented u n i o n b e i n g ready a t b i r t h to go forward. And  anger, i n t h i s turnabout,  becomes a s t r o n g n e g a t i v e f o r c e t h a t r e t u r n s  the mind to i t s ground: I t i s the r o o t s of r o o t s we flower! the man of a man! From the b e g i n n i n g a g a i n ! "The  d e s i r e ! the f l o w e r of a the white of a white —  h a r d b a c k b i t e of anger r e c u r r i n g i n the ebb  f l o w , " W i l l i a m s says a t  21 the end  of t h i s s h o r t p i e c e , " i s s t u r d i n e s s h o l d i n g i t s own."  v e r y w e l l be  t a l k i n g back to Others.  more d e s i r e and of  may  w e l l have weathered the storm.  was  however, was  could  complacency, less a clique  biases.  t h i s d i s t u r b a n c e been a l l t h a t W i l l i a m s had  writing l i f e ,  less  l e s s b a c k - s l a p p i n g , more s e r i o u s w r i t i n g and  w r i t e r s s u p p o r t i n g t h e i r own Had  More anger and  He  to worry about, he  Simultaneous to the breakdown i n h i s  an anger much c l o s e r to home.  drawn back i n t o the same l o c a l w o r l d he had  In 1917,  Williams  a f f i r m e d i n A l Que  Quiere!  but t h i s time i n ways, to say the l e a s t , t h a t d i d not make f o r the s h o r t , c r i s p poems c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of t h i s volume. undergoing  i t s own  slaughter.  The  treatment  His private l i f e d u r i n g the war  was  also  of F l o s s ' s  f a t h e r , Pa Herman, by the townspeople of R u t h e r f o r d s e t s the tone of a number of s e t b a c k s .  Williams r e c a l l s  the s p e c i f i c i n c i d e n t i n h i s Auto-  biography : The war was on and Pa Herman, b e i n g by b i r t h an East P r u s s i a n from near B r e s l a u , was e m o t i o n a l l y deeply involved. T h i s marked a b a s i c phase i n our l i v e s . I was a l l f o r the man whom I p r o f o u n d l y admired. •.' I t was  a  29  tough spot. We were o f f i c i a l l y n e u t r a l b e f o r e 1917, but i n d i v i d u a l l y most o f us were p r o - F r e n c h i f n o t pro-British. But Pa Herman was outspokenly pro-German. He was a l s o p r e s i d e n t o f the s o c i a l c l u b o f t h e town, which met f o r t n i g h t l y , a semi-dress a f f a i r , and when the c l u b as a group wanted t o w r i t e t o the P r e s i d e n t a d v o c a t i n g a s s i s t a n c e to B r i t a i n , he v o t e d no. (A, 154) When America  d e c l a r e d , war.on.Germany l a t e r i n 1917, Pa. Herman was branded  a "disloyal citizen" l o y a l t o Americaj ford.  (A, 154), and a l t h o u g h ,  as W i l l i a m s says, he was  the l o c a l c i t i z e n s - e v e n t u a l l y f o r c e d him out of Ruther-  N a t u r a l l y W i l l i a m s took Pa Herman's s i d e and got caught up i n the  broil.  He too was accused  o f b e i n g pro-German.  " L a t e r , " he w r i t e s ,  the same mouths were c a l l i n g me a Communist, s a y i n g t h a t F l o s s i e had gone abroad t o d i v o r c e me because o f my lascivious l i f e . I j u s t kept w r i t i n g my p r o t e s t s i n t o poems, e s s a y s , p l a y s and r e v i e w s . (A, 155) W i l l i a m s wrote a l e t t e r t o The R u t h e r f o r d R e p u b l i c a n and R u t h e r f o r d  American  22 'newspaperdisclaiming  a l l these charges.  H i s own mother turned on him f o r  s u p p o r t i n g Pa Herman: "With f u r y i n h e r eyes she accused me o f b e i n g p r o German" (A, 155). All  the w h i l e t h i s  f r e n z y was c h u r n i n g on the l o c a l f r o n t , W i l l i a m s '  f a t h e r was " d y i n g o f c a n c e r " d i e d December 25th, 1918.  (A, 159) , i n 1918 c o n f i n e d t o t h e house.  But more, j u s t a f t e r the Hermans l e f t  He  Rutherford,  F l o s s ' s 14 year o l d b r o t h e r , Pa Herman's o n l y son, d i e d i n a chance mishap  — t r i p p e d over a s t r a n d o f barbed wire hidden i n the grass at the top o f a steep c u t , f e l l , and was a c c i d e n t l y shot and k i l l e d by h i s own gun which s l i d a f t e r him down the bank. (4., 156)  On top o f these d i s a s t e r s i n h i s f a m i l y l i f e , W i l l i a m s ' work as a d o c t o r i n t e n s i f i e d enormously when t h e infamous i n f l u e n z a epidemic  hit—  " i n the  e a r l y months o f 1918 what d o c t o r s remained here were d r i v e n o f f t h e i r by the work" (A, 159):  feet  We d o c t o r s were making up t o s i x t y c a l l s a day. S e v e r a l of us were knocked o u t , one o f the younger o f us d i e d , o t h e r s caught the t h i n g , and we hadn't a t h i n g t h a t was e f f e c t i v e i n c h e c k i n g t h a t potent p o i s o n t h a t was sweeping the w o r l d . I l o s t two young women i n t h e i r e a r l y t w e n t i e s , the f i n e s t p h y s i c a l specimens you c o u l d imagine. Those seemed t o be h i t h a r d e s t . They'd be s i c k one day and g o n e t h e next, j u s t l i k e t h a t , f i l l up and d i e . (A, 159-160) 9  The world,  f o r W i l l i a m s , had suddenly  turned, t o p s y - t u r v y , u n c e r t a i n ,  i n d e t e r m i n a t e , a t a n g l e d web o f i r r e s o l v a b l e c o m p l e x i t i e s , a l l o f i t coming to  a p o i n t of c r i s i s  over the w o r l d .  i n the epidemic  that k i l l e d  The d i s e a s e had-no known cause, hence no c u r e , but simply  seemed t o come from nowhere, from a darkness  out t h e r e .  time, i n the l o c a l world W i l l i a m s had a c c e p t e d see, i t i s n o t n e c e s s a r y was undergoing  18-20 m i l l i o n people a l l  And a t the same  i n A l Que Q u i e r e ! —  "You  f o r us t o l e a p a t each o t h e r " (CEP, 126) — he  a s e r i e s o f shocks t h a t o v e r t u r n e d h i s l i f e .  His father-in-  law o s t r a c i z e d , o s t r a c i z e d h i m s e l f f o r s t i c k i n g by him, h i s f a t h e r d y i n g of  an i n c u r a b l e d i s e a s e , h i s b r o t h e r - i n - l a w k i l l e d  and as w e l l , the " l i t e r a r y " w o r l d attention i t s e l f  t h a t had consumed so much o f h i s  c o l l a p s i n g i n t o narrow forms o f s e l f - d e f e n s e .  Autobiography,  W i l l i a m s mentions almost  a few years —  from happiness  as we can gather,  i n a freak accident,  In h i s  c a s u a l l y , "how much can happen i n  to d i s a s t e r "  the shape o f the c r i s i s  (A, 155), but t h i s i s , as f a r t h a t i n i t i a t e d him i n t o the  w r i t i n g o f Kora i n H e l l . I t was Persephone gone i n t o Hades, i n t o h e l l . Kora was the springtime: o'-f the. y e a r ; m y - y e a r m y . s e l f was b e i n g s l a u g h t e r e d . What was the u s e o f denying i t ? F o r r e l i e f , t o keep m y s e l f from p l a n n i n g and t h i n k i n g a t a l l , I began t o w r i t e i n e a r n e s t . I d e c i d e d t h a t I would w r i t e something every day, without m i s s i n g one day, f o r a y e a r . I'd w r i t e n o t h i n g planned but take up a p e n c i l , put the paper b e f o r e me, and w r i t e a n y t h i n g t h a t came i n t o my head. Be i t n i n e i n the evening o r t h r e e i n the morning, r e t u r n i n g from some d e l i v e r y on Guinea H i l l , I'd w r i t e i t down.  I d i d j u s t t h a t , day a f t e r day, w i t h o u t m i s s i n g one day f o r a y e a r . Not a word was t o be changed. I d i d n ' t change any, but I d i d t e a r up some o f the s t u f f . (A, 1 5 8 ) ^ I t i s , then, through w r i t i n g t h a t W i l l i a m s e v e n t u a l l y got through the c r i s i s , but e q u a l l y , i t i s through w r i t i n g t h a t he managed t o f i g u r e himself  i n t o a modernist w o r l d .  SECTION ONE  THE WORD MAN  I make a word.  Listen!  LIMMMMMMMMMM^  —  (GAN, 162)  I t i s the making o f t h a t s t e p , t o come over i n t o the t a c t i l e q u a l i t i e s , the words themselves beyond the mere thought e x p r e s s e d . . . (A, 380)  Words a r e the keys t h a t u n l o c k the mind. (SE, 282)  T h e r e f o r e he w r i t e s , a t t e m p t i n g t o s t r i k e s t r a i g h t t o the core o f h i s i n n e r s e l f , by words. By words which have been used time w i t h o u t end by o t h e r men f o r the same purpose, words worn smooth, greasy w i t h the thumbi n g and f i n g e r i n g o f o t h e r s . F o r him they must be f r e s h t o o , f r e s h as a n y t h i n g he knows — as f r e s h as morning l i g h t , r e p e a t e d every day the year around. (EK, 105)  The word i s the t h i n g .  Am I a word?  (GAN, 171)  Words, words, words —  (GAN, 166)  34  INTRODUCTION  RING,. RING, RING, RING  "Am  I a word?  Words, words, words" (GAN,  r i n g i n g o f the phone o r the d o o r b e l l .  166)  —  like  the i n s i s t e n t  At the most unexpected o f moments:  p i c k up the r e c e i v e r o r open the door, and i n they r u s h , a whole m u l t i t u d e of them.  The a c t o f s p e a k i n g through "the words themselves beyond  the  mere thought e x p r e s s e d " (A, 380) — w r i t i n g came to W i l l i a m s i n t h i s of h e i g h t e n e d way. and  Such speaking i s primary because  kind  i t i s both n e c e s s a r y  active: In our f a m i l y we stammer u n l e s s , h a l f mad, we come t o speech a t l a s t And I am not a young man. (PB, 77)  So W i l l i a m s w r i t e s i n the l a t e and moving poem, "To Daphne and from The Desert Music and Other Poems (1954).  Virginia"  And g i v e n the immediacy o f  t h i s d r i v e to "come to speech a t l a s t , " i t i s not s u r p r i s i n g  that  Shakespeare, a " G r a n d f a t h e r " (EK, 110), s h o u l d become i n h i s mind the l i v i n g i n s t a n c e o f a human c o n d i t i o n —  Shakespeare as the f i g u r e of the  35  w r i t e r who  i s , above a l l , a type o f man:  then a t h i s h i g h e s t p i t c h "  "Man  the s p e a k i n g a n i m a l .  Man,  (EK, 11).  As a w r i t e r h i m s e l f , then, W i l l i a m s l i v e d a r e s t l e s s l i f e .  He gave  h i m s e l f over c o m p l e t e l y to the i n t r i c a c i e s o f w r i t i n g as an a c t , one i n which the w r i t e r c o n s t a n t l y undergoes the c o m p l e x i t y o f h i s medium: Oh c l e a r l y ! Clearly? What more c l e a r than t h a t o f a l l t h i n g s n o t h i n g i s so u n c l e a r , between man and h i s w r i t i n g , as to which i s the man and which i s the t h i n g and of them both which i s the more to be v a l u e d . (P, 140) It man  i s o f t e n t h a t hard, i f not i m p o s s i b l e , to s e p a r a t e out the l i f e o f the from the l i f e  of the w r i t e r w i t h o u t l o s i n g the c o n n e c t i o n t h a t makes  the s e p a r a t i o n a perhaps w r i t i n g , are entwined  irrelevant distortion.  The  two,  i n Williams'  i n a knotted r e l a t i o n s h i p :  F i v e minutes,  t e n minutes, can always be found.  I had  my t y p e w r i t e r i n my o f f i c e desk. A l l I needed to do was to p u l l up the l e a f to which i t was f a s t e n e d and I was ready t o go. I worked a t top speed. ("Foreword," A,  To be, i n f a c t , "Man lives.  n.p.)  the s p e a k i n g a n i m a l " i s to l i v e the i n t e n s e s t o f  W i l l i a m s came to v a l u e speech i t s e l f  f o r t h i s reason.  And  w r i t e r , he never stopped b e i n g c o n s c i o u s of the power o f words, how  as a they  not o n l y demand, but a l s o open the deepest l e v e l s o f f e e l i n g .  This a f f a i r ,  t h i s l o v e - a f f a i r w i t h words began e a r l y f o r him, and c o n t i n u e d  unwaveringly  through a l o n g and complicated, involvement w i t h the r i c h d e n s i t y of "the language  . . . the language!"  (P, 21).  In 1919,  a statement  from a T a l k on P o e t r y " p u b l i s h e d i n P o e t r y , a s t i l l t a n t a s s e r t i o n o f a p o s s i b l e assumption of  embryonic  i n "Notes but u n h e s i -  behind the d i s c o v e r y o f a new  w r i t i n g , a k i n d which would permit the w i d e s t range  to e x p e r i e n c e :  I must w r i t e , I must s t r i v e to express m y s e l f . I must study my t e c h n i q u e , as a P u r i t a n d i d h i s B i b l e , because  kind  .36  I cannot get a t my emotions i n any o t h e r way. There i s n o t h i n g save the emotions: I -must w r i t e , I must t a l k when I c a n . I t i s my d e f i a n c e ; my l o v e song: a l l o f i t . T h i s essay  or s e r i e s of "notes"  i s t e n t a t i v e , o v e r l y s e l f - c o n s c i o u s and  even somewhat f r a n t i c , w r i t t e n as i t was d u r i n g a p e r i o d when W i l l i a m s unusually  i s o l a t e d and u n j u s t l y n e g l e c t e d as a p o e t .  i t persists.  felt  Y e t the base tone o f  I n 1921, from a l e t t e r t o Marianne Moore, i n response t o  her welcome comments on the r e c e n t l y p u b l i s h e d Kora i n H e l l  (1920):  S u r e l y t h e r e i s no g r e a t e r excitement than t h a t o f composition. I am dead when I cannot w r i t e and when I am a t i t I burn w i t h a f e v e r t i l l one would t h i n k me mad. (SL, 5 3 ) 2  And  finally,  one more o f many s i m i l a r examples, t h i s time on the o t h e r s i d e  o f a l i f e t i m e , i n a p r i n t - o u t accompanying the b r o a d s i d e  p u b l i c a t i o n of  "Sappho: A T r a n s l a t i o n by W i l l i a m C a r l o s W i l l i a m s " i n 1957: " I t h i n k a l l  3 writing i s a disease.  You can't  stop i t . "  T h i s sense o f w r i t i n g as a f e v e r i s h n e c e s s i t y , a d i s e a s e even, e x p l a i n s Williams' own sake.  constant  d e s i r e to m a i n t a i n  Even when he f e l t  the excitement o f composition  c o n s t r i c t e d by h i s own p r e s e n t  for its  l i m i t a t i o n s , he  would b r i n g h i s doubts and r e l u c t a n c e s i n t o the e f f o r t o f the t e x t he was at  the moment composing.  The push was always forward:  "Write  going.  to  s t e e r " (AN, 278). And o f t e n , as i n the " i m p r o v i s a t i o n s " t h a t  Look  finally  became Kora i n H e l l , h i s d e s i r e t o e x p l o r e and " w r i t e " out, and i n t h i s way work through the blockages,  became the important  There i s a l s o t h i s s p e c i f i c i t y  i n these  substance o f the t e x t .  l i n e s from P a t e r s o n  I I : "Blocked.  /  (Make a song out o f t h a t : c o n c r e t e l y ) " (P, 78).  In W i l l i a m s '  terms, w r i t i n g i s a l i v e only when i t engages the s i t u a t i o n  prompting i t . • The b l o c k e d w r i t e r should  then meet head on whatever i s  p r e v e n t i n g him from a u t h e n t i c speech, i n the w r i t i n g i t s e l f .  There i s a  .37  p o s s i b l e "song" i n c o n f r o n t i n g the blockage i s i n c o n f r o n t i n g any  thing.  And  the movement w i t h i n words, to h e l p him i n t e l l e c t u a l impasses.  says i n "How  to  "The  there  d e s p i t e the obvious r i s k s i n h e r e n t i n  such an open-ended p r o p o s i t i o n , W i l l i a m s  and  ( " c o n c r e t e l y " ) , j u s t as  continued  f i n d a way  to t r u s t the out of both  process, emotional  b l a n k n e s s of the w r i t i n g s u r f a c e , " he  Write,"  may cause the mind to shy, i t may be i m p o s s i b l e to r e l e a s e the f a c u l t i e s . Write, write anything: i t i s a l l i n a l l p r o b a b i l i t y w o r t h l e s s anyhow, i t i s never hard to d e s t r o y written characters. But i t i s a b s o l u t e l y e s s e n t i a l to the w r i t i n g of a n y t h i n g worth w h i l e t h a t the mind be f l u i d and r e l e a s e i t s e l f to the t a s k . 4  W r i t i n g was, The —  from the b e g i n n i n g ,  a hunt  —  t h i n g , the t h i n g , of which I am  i n chase (A,  288)  on the empty space o f the page i n a s i l e n c e t h a t t h e " u n r u l y M a s t e r "  (PB,  83),  the h e a r t , wants to f i l l  animate, f o r whatever has  life  w i t h words.  The  and movement, and  to c a r r y t h a t i n t o the  v e r y words u n f o l d i n g i n the heat of c o m p o s i t i o n . from the poem " T a p i o l a , " W i l l i a m s  d e s i r e i s f o r the  In a r e v e a l i n g passage  addresses the i n t e r i o r of the  S i b e l i u s , p r o j e c t i n g h i m s e l f through i t .  There i s t h a t c u r i o u s  composer resemblance  between the f i g u r e of the composer wrapped i n the "power of music," submerged i n a composing of sounds coming t o g e t h e r and W i l l i a m s  "edge a g a i n s t edge,"  h i m s e l f , whose " i m p r o v i s a t i o n s " f o r , K o r a i n H e l l c o u l d  have a r i s e n out of a s i m i l a r a t t e n t i o n to words —  easily  t h e i r s i g h t s , sounds,  and c o n f i g u r a t i o n s : You stayed up h a l f the n i g h t i n your a t t i c room under the eaves, composing s e c r e t l y , s e t t i n g i t down, p e r i o d a f t e r p e r i o d , as the wind w h i s t l e d . L i g h t n i n g f l a s h e d ! The r o o f creaked about your ears t h r e a t e n i n g to g i v e way! But you had a composition to f i n i s h t h a t c o u l d not w a i t . The storm e n t e r e d your mind where a l l good t h i n g s a r e s e c u r e d , w r i t t e n down, f o r l o v e ' s sake and to defy the d e v i l of emptiness. (PB, 67)  38  The  d e s i r e i s to w r i t e down the storm of words r i n g i n g i n h i s mind  i n W i l l i a m s ' work, d e s i r e i s t i e d t o language.. because d e s i r e i s " u n r u l y ? " It  goes e i t h e r way,  behind  Or i s d e s i r e w i l d because language i s ' u n r u l y ? "  T h i s i s why  Williams  he m i s t r u s t e d  so adamantly any  thought b e t r a y e d  the e s s e n t i a l l y m y s t e r i o u s ,  language of language.  He was  s e l v e s , sometimes, but more o f t e n than not  wonder t h a t they  the  actuality  f o r granted  in  theory o f c o m p o s i t i o n  o f t e n c o n f u s i n g , but  always swept up  as they appeared out of the deep r e c e s s e s  i n h a p h a z a r d l y c r a z y ways.  is itself  took n o t h i n g  h i m s e l f , and why  present  Is language then w i l d  the i n s e p a r a b i l i t y of the two  the q u e s t i o n s .  —•  he  ever-  i n the heat of words  of the h e a r t , d e c l a r i n g themsimply  And W i l l i a m s was  breaking  i n t o the mind  continually struck  c o u l d so suddenly be t h e r e , and  with  thus here i n the a c t of  writing: UimrmmmmTrammm — Turned i n t o the wrong s t r e e t a t t h r e e A.M. l o s t i n the f o g , l i s t e n i n g , s e a r c h i n g — Waaaa! s a i d the baby. I'm new. A boy! A what? Boy. S h i t , s a i d the f a t h e r of two o t h e r sons. L i s t e n here. T h i s i s no p l a c e to t a l k t h a t way. What a word to use. I'm new, s a i d the sudden word. (GAN, 162)  The words themselves t w i s t e d and foremost, he  the words, "The  "for It  and  i n W i l l i a m s ' mind.  c o n s i d e r e d h i m s e l f a "word man,"  companions who  first  turned  shared  t h a t most d i f f i c u l t and  best of a l l to my  way  l i k e Pound and  First  and  Zukofsky, h i s  e x a c t i n g a r t of w r i t i n g i n  o f t h i n k i n g " (SE, 282).^  And  always,  foremost, i n the w r i t i n g , the words were understood as primary  the words come f i r s t  and  the i d e a s are caught, perhaps among them . . . .  does not go the o t h e r way."  o f t e n make what a t f i r s t  —  glance  Out  of t h i s r e c o g n i t i o n , W i l l i a m s  could  seem to be s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d , even common-  place a s s e r t i o n s : W r i t i n g i s made o f words, of n o t h i n g  e l s e , (SE,  132)  39  Words a r e the keys t h a t u n l o c k the mind. (SE, 282) But n o t so s i m p l i s t i c a l l y ,  such statements h o l d weight o n l y t o the e x t e n t  t h a t a w r i t e r e x p e r i e n c e s words as hard-edged i v i t y " o f t h e i r own.  p a r t i c l e s w i t h an " o b j e c t -  The b a s i c assumption i s t h a t language, the whole  range o f words i n t h e i r m u l t i p l e i n t e r a c t i o n s w i t h each o t h e r , e x h i b i t s a l a r g e n e s s w i t h i n which the l i f e human.  Even what we c a l l  a c t u a l i t y o f language.  o f the w o r l d comes i n t o the r e a c h o f the  the "meaning" o f the words i s s u e s from the  As Maurice Merleau-Pority.reminds us i n S i g n s ,  language "does not presuppose i t s t a b l e of. correspondence; i t u n v e i l s i t s secrets i t s e l f . " ^  W i l l i a m s ' a f f i r m a t i o n o f the p a r t i c u l a r i t y o f words  r e s t s upon a s i m i l a r sense o f language. to  He i m p l i e s as much i n a response  a q u e s t i o n he must have encountered, both p u b l i c l y and p r i v a t e l y , many  times b e f o r e .  T h i s o c c a s i o n i s an i n t e r v i e w  ("Is P o e t r y a Dead Duck"?)  conducted by Mike Wallace i n 1957, which W i l l i a m s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y  g lifted  Is  up i n t o P a t e r s o n V: Q.  But s h o u l d n ' t a word mean something when you see i t ?  A.  I n p r o s e , an E n g l i s h word means what i t s a y s . - I n p o e t r y , you're l i s t e n i n g t o two t h i n g s . . . you're l i s t e n i n g t o the sense, the common sense o f what i t s a y s . But i t says more. That i s the d i f f i c u l t y . (P, 262)  this a p o l i t e dismissal?  Possibly.  t e a s i n g l y , leave a great deal unsaid. of  W i l l i a m s ' answer does, almost But the i n s i s t e n c y o f i t . r e m a i n s  a p i e c e : the n a t u r e o f language, and the f a c t of i t .  These a r e  s t a r t i n g p o i n t s f o r u n d e r s t a n d i n g the b a s i s o f W i l l i a m s ' w r i t i n g .  Here we  can a l s o see why he was so q u i c k t o acknowledge the k i n d o f w r i t e r s , Joyce and S t e i n f o r i n s t a n c e , who d e e p l y engaged, i n w r i t i n g , the appearance o f language as an a c t u a l i t y .  "I'm new, s a i d the sudden word."  40  P e r p e t u a l l y amazed that, words thus c o n t a i n o b j e c t i v i t y , Williams The —  the a c t u a l i n t h e i r  was l e d by them to hunt down a methodology  —  t h i n g , the t h i n g , o f which I am i n chase  t o handle the r i n g i n g i n h i s e a r s , what he heard i n those moments "the  language" flowed i n .  T h i s "chase" winds l i k e one continuous  thread  through a l l h i s work.  And so when he s a t down t o w r i t e h i s Autobiography,  he  structures h i s l i f e  —  in  a way w h o l l y determined by the s e a r c h  and the l i v e s o f c e r t a i n o f h i s contemporaries  answer t o the d e n s i t y o f language. ically,  f o r a p o e t i c , one which would  I n t h i s same book, he p o i n t s emphat-  and not s u r p r i s i n g l y , to i t s o r i g i n a t i o n i n the emergence o f language  as a l i v e t h i n g i n the e a r l y y e a r s o f the century. he does so i n "The C o l l e g e L i f e . " his  —  s t a y a t Reed C o l l e g e  Appropriately  I t i s here t h a t W i l l i a m s  enough,  :  t a l k s about  i n the l a t e 40's, where he read and conducted  d i s c u s s i o n s on the n a t u r e o f "modernist" w r i t i n g , the k i n d o f w r i t i n g p a r t and p a r c e l o f h i s own l i f e and  parcel.  —  and o f which he, as i t developed, was p a r t  " I t i s the making o f t h a t s t e p , " he w r i t e s ,  to come over i n t o the t a c t i l e q u a l i t i e s , the words thems e l v e s beyond the mere thought expressed t h a t d i s t i n guishes the modern, o r d i s t i n g u i s h e d the modern o f t h a t time from the p e r i o d b e f o r e the t u r n o f the c e n t u r y . (A, 380) And  then a b i t l a t e r i n the same  chapter:  The key, the master-key t o the age was t h a t jump from the f e e l i n g t o the word i t s e l f : t h a t which had been got down, the t h i n g t o be judged and v a l u e d a c c o r d i n g l y . E v e r y t h i n g e l s e f o l l o w e d t h a t . Without t h a t step h a v i n g been taken n o t h i n g was u n d e r s t a n d a b l e . (A, 381)  Williams  a l i g n s t h a t step over i n t o "the words themselves" w i t h the  9 d i s c o v e r i e s o f t h e p a i n t e r s i n those same e a r l y y e a r s .  J u s t as Cezanne,  41  say, opened up the p o s s i b i l i t y f o r an e x p e r i e n c e of p a i n t , f o r w r i t e r s the s h i f t opened tip the v e r y p o s s i b i l i t y f o r an e x p e r i e n c e o f E x p e r i e n c e had  language.  t o be r e - t i e d to words and the v a l u e o f e x p e r i e n c e r e - f o u n d ,  i n the c o n f i g u r a t i o n of words through which the a c t u a l i n a l l i t s i n d e t e r m i n a c y , a l l i t s f l u i d i t y , appears.  I t may  to say " W r i t i n g i s made o f words, n o t h i n g e l s e . " common.  They surround us.  But- the phrase  c i t y hard f o r us t o see: " j u s t words." t h a t we  sound s i m p l e , commonplace, Words are o r d i n a r y , and  " n o t h i n g e l s e " makes t h a t  simpli-  Words are so much the a i r we  breathe  r a r e l y e x p e r i e n c e them o b j e c t i v e l y , as "themselves  thought e x p r e s s e d . "  Without  selves l o s t  —  t h i s i s one  reason why  them, however, and j u s t  f o r words, as we  beyond the mere  then, we  find  our-  seem t o have no c h o i c e but to say.  And  W i l l i a m s so o f t e n mentions the work o f Gertrude  S t e i n when he t a l k s about  the b e g i n n i n g s o f "modern" w r i t i n g .  "During  the p e r i o d o f her work, i n f l u e n t i a l and f r u i t f u l as i t grew to be,"  he  w r i t e s i n "An Approach t o the Poem" (1948), "Miss S t e i n ' s emphasis on the word as an o b j e c t was p o r a r y art.""*"^  one of her most important c o n t r i b u t i o n s to contem-  J u s t as the o b j e c t i v i t y o f a u r i n a l needed a M a r c e l Duchamp  to b r i n g i t f o r t h as " o b j e c t , " so the o b j e c t i v i t y of language  demanded a t  t h a t time the l i k e s o f a Gertrude S t e i n to b r i n g i t f o r t h as " o b j e c t . " Otherwise, and  language  would simply have c o n t i n u e d to be taken f o r g r a n t e d ,  the "mere thought" be thought o f as p r i o r to the words themselves  make the "thought" p o s s i b l e i n the f i r s t p l a c e .  T h i s d i s t i n c t i o n had  be made, W i l l i a m s s u g g e s t s , o r e l s e " n o t h i n g was  understandable."  As W i l l i a m s knew w e l l , the s h i f t  which to  i n t o words can cause i n t e n s e r e s i s t -  ances, s i n c e i t makes f o r an openness t h a t runs c o n t r a r y to the s t r o n g tendency  o f the mind to m a i n t a i n i t s h a b i t u a l forms when opposed by change.  The mind can be t r i c k y —  t h i s W i l l i a m s was  to d i s c o v e r f o r h i m s e l f i n Kora  42 in Hell — other  but most e s p e c i a l l y when i t i s l e f t  than i t s own  constructs.  o f systems of thought. " o r d e r s " an otherwise to  static states.  s o l e l y to r e l y on  nothing  I t can a b s t r a c t from m u l t i p l i c i t y any  These i n t u r n can predetermine and e n d l e s s l y dynamic world  To c o n s i s t e n c y .  of t h i n g s .  To coherence.  reduce to The way  To u n i t y .  number their  i t clings  To a k i n d of  o r d e r t h a t o v e r l a y s t h i n g s w i t h comparisons r a t h e r than accounts f o r "those  i n i m i t a b l e p a r t i c l e s of d i s s i m i l a r i t y to a l l o t h e r t h i n g s which are  the p e c u l i a r p e r f e c t i o n s of the t h i n g i n q u e s t i o n " o b s t i n a t e , sometimes o b s e s s i v e without  determination  (K, 18).  And i t s  to i n h a b i t t h i s same o r d e r  q u e s t i o n i n g the l i m i t s of i t . W i l l i a m s  found t h i s h a b i t of mind  v i c i o u s because i t s u r v i v e s o n l y through i t s power to negate. early i n l i f e , "  he w r i t e s i n "The  s i c k to my f e e l e r s to Taine l e f t literature t i n u i t y of The  crab's  "I  was  B a s i s of F a i t h i n A r t , "  v e r y p i t w i t h o r d e r t h a t c u t s o f f the crab's make i t f i t i n t o the box. You remember how Keats out of h i s c r i t i c i s m of E n g l i s h because to i n c l u d e him would s p o i l the conh i s argument? (SE, 188)  f e e l e r s are as a c t u a l as Keats i s , as any  i n s t a n c e , language i s .  But  t h i n g i s , as f o r  the assumption of t h i s type of power over  t h i n g s removes the mind from t h a t which i t presumes to e x p l a i n .  The w r i t e r who mind s i t s behind his  p l a c e s h i m s e l f a t the d i s p o s a l of a s i m i l a r h a b i t of  c l o s e d doors and  thereby  l o s e s what should be  c l o s e s t to  a t t e n t i o n : the " s e c r e t " of language, the words i n s e p a r a b l y t i e d to an  animacy always i n t r a n s i t .  The  e n c l o s u r e w i t h i n the c o n f i n e s of which  he  f i x e s h i m s e l f i s n o t h i n g more than a symptom of a r e f u s a l to acknowledge a mode of conciousness of words.  The  —  w r i t i n g as one  a c t i v e to the movement  r e f u s a l i s r e a l l y the e f f e c t of denying what would.permit  d e s t r u c t i o n of such m e n t a l b a r r i e r s . allowed  such mode —  to " f l o w i n , " so W i l l i a m s  the  I t i s o n l y when language i s heard, i s  discovered,  t h a t the mind can be drawn  43  outside  i t s own l i m i t s ,  p l a y o f words.  i n t o the j m i l t i p l i c i t y ,  The a c t o f l i s t e n i n g , i n t h i s s p e c i f i c c o n t e x t ,  outwardness t h a t r e l e a s e s taneously,  the p l a y as w e l l as the i n t e r becomes  an  the inwardness o f words, but e q u a l l y and s i m u l -  r e l e a s e s the w r i t e r t o the drama o f a c o n t r a r i e t y w i t h i n  e x p e r i e n c e t h a t i s p r e c i s e l y a t odds w i t h the mind's h a b i t u a l p r e c o n c e p t i o n s : o f the d i s - o r d e r behind and b e f o r e the i r r a t i o n a l , more a c c u r a t e l y n o n - r a t i o n a l , rational."'"''"  Or the i n d e t e r m i n a t e  the d i s - e a s e  behind o r b e f o r e  the form.  the ease.  as one i n s t a n c e .  behind and b e f o r e  behind and b e f o r e  Or  the  the d e t e r m i n a t e .  Or the change behind and  Or the d e s i r e behind and b e f o r e  behind and b e f o r e  order,  the mind.  Or  before  Or the language  the man.  Only one answer: w r i t e c a r e l e s s l y so t h a t t h a t i s not green w i l l s u r v i v e .  nothing  There i s a drumming o f submerged e n g i n e s , a beat o f p r o p e l l e r s . The ears are water. The f e e t l i s t e n . (P, 155)  The c o n t i n u a l t e n s i o n o f s u c h . s u b t l e t i e s Williams'  attention i s d i f f i c u l t ,  t r a t i o n , a concentration  t h a t never ceased t o demand  demanding i n d e e d : i t c a l l s f o r concen-  p a r a d o x i c a l l y enough f o c u s s e d  on k e e p i n g the  mind and the senses wide open t o the a c t u a l t h a t words c o n t a i n , than t o the o v e r s i m p l i f i c a t i o n c a l l e d  'meaning' or 'sense.'  rather  Williams'  work throughout abounds i n w r i t i n g o f t h i s k i n d , so when he s t r i k e s out impatiently against  those he takes to be the enemies, o f language, as he  does i n s i s t e n t l y d u r i n g  the 20's, i t i s not without some cause.  At t h a t  time, few r e a d e r s were p r e p a r e d , o r perhaps a b l e , to see what he was in his writing. h i s work.  Frequently,  doing  i n f a c t , he was unable to f i n d p u b l i s h e r s f o r  44  T h i s i s e s p e c i a l l y the case with. A N o v e l e t t e and Other Prose In a l e t t e r to Pound dated March 13, 1930 I've been up s i n c e 5.30 w i f e (he c r i e d ) and now Novelette (SL, 112) —  --  c e r t i f y i n g the death o f a man's f i n i s h i n g the c o r r e c t i o n o f the  W i l l i a m s says t h a t t h i s t e x t " i s v e r y c l o s e to my  w i l l handle i t h e r e " (SL, 112).  (1932).  heart —  and no  one  Maybe Pound can h e l p him get i t p u b l i s h e d  somewhere e l s e . F l o s s and the u b i q u i t o u s Zuke E L o u i s ZukofskyJ a r e the o n l y ones i n t h i s s e c t i o n of u n d e r s t a n d i n g who have fallen for i t . And no two people c o u l d approach the t h i n g from a more d i v e r g e n t a n g l e . (SL, 112-113)  No one w i l l handle i t h e r e . p r i v a t e one,  There was  no r e a d e r s h i p , o t h e r than a  a v a i l a b l e f o r the s o r t o f e x p e r i m e n t a l w r i t i n g h o l d i n g  Williams' interest  then.  Why?  The  i n t e l l i g e n c e of p o s s i b l e r e a d e r s , he  argues i n p a r t through the t e x t , i s hampered by two forms o f thought  i n hisj. contemporary  of the most  predominant  w o r l d : " s c i e n c e " and " p h i l o s o p h y , "  which t o g e t h e r s t a n d behind the narrow b e l i e f t h a t the a c t u a l i s d i s c l o s e d o n l y by forms of r a t i o n a l d i s c o u r s e . "categories" —  W i l l i a m s s i n g l e s them out as  to be t r e a t e d as such —  special  i n o r d e r the more a c c u r a t e l y to  d e l i n e a t e the l i m i t s o f a l l such forms t h a t o v e r l a y e x p e r i e n c e w i t h p r e 12 determination.  They may  be harmless  i n themselves, but when they are  a p p l i e d wholesale  to r e g i o n s of a c t i v i t y beyond t h e i r b o u n d a r i e s , they  permit the mind t o s l i d e o f f i n t o the comfort o f a c l o s u r e t h a t p r e v e n t s i t from d e a l i n g  ( " c o n c r e t e l y " ) w i t h p a r t i c u l a r i t i e s o u t s i d e . . The  then grows t h a t language  assumption  i s t r a n s p a r e n t , n o t h i n g more than a v e h i c l e f o r  " i d e a s " o r " t h i n g s , " a mere s i g n , o r a b i l l - b o a r d even, t h a t p o i n t s to something  o t h e r than i t s e l f , u s e f u l perhaps, y e t not to be taken as a c t u a l .  W i l l i a m s ' anger,  i n the f a c e o f what seemed to him an i n c r e d i b l y  stupid  t r a n s p o s i t i o n o f terms c o u l d become s c a t h i n g , almost b i t t e r a t t i m e s :  45  when language i s s u b s e r v i e n t to the s a l e of o l d c l o t h e s and i d e a s and the formulas f o r the s y n t h e t i c manufacture of rubber (AN, 280-281)  Or e l s e , i f a more c r i t i c a l urgency  came on, he c o u l d assume the  f u n c t i o n of " r e a d e r " and seek to c l a r i f y h i m s e l f through o t h e r w r i t e r s ' work companion to h i s own.  Through the w r i t i n g of Gertrude  i n s t a n c e , where the e x p e r i e n c e o f language i s dramatized of language,  ("The  i n a structuring  her work, f o r t h a t v e r y reason, c o n f u s i n g l y mis-read.  i n the 20's, when W i l l i a m s was essay  Stein, for  Work of Gertrude  i n A N o v e l e t t e and  Other  still  So,  r e a d i n g her f r e s h l y , he w r i t e s an  S t e i n " ) t h a t i s a p a r t of the "other p r o s e "  Prose:  I f the a t t e n t i o n c o u l d e n v i s i o n the whole of w r i t i n g , l e t us say, a t one time, moving over i t i n s w i f t and a c c u r a t e p u r s u i t of the modern i m p e r a t i v e a t the i n s t a n t when i t i s most to the f o r e , something o f what a c t u a l l y takes p l a c e under an optimum of i n t e l l i g e n c e c o u l d be observed. I t i s an a l e r t n e s s not to l e t go o f a p o s s i b i l i t y o f movement i n our f e a r f u l bedazzlement w i t h some c o n c r e t e and f i x e d p r e s e n t . The g o a l i s to keep a b e l e a g u e r e d l i n e of u n d e r s t a n d i n g which has movement from b r e a k i n g down and becoming a h o l e i n t o which we s i n k d e c o r a t i v e l y to r e s t . The g o a l has n o t h i n g to do w i t h the s i l l y f u n c t i o n which l o g i c , n a t u r a l or o t h e r w i s e , e n f o r c e s . Y e t i t i s a g o a l . I t moves as the sense w e a r i e s , remains f r e s h , living. One i s concerned w i t h i t as w i t h a n y t h i n g pursued and not w i t h the rush o f a i r or the guts of the horse one i s r i d i n g — save to a v e r y minor degree. W r i t i n g , l i k e e v e r y t h i n g e l s e , i s much a q u e s t i o n of refreshed i n t e r e s t . I t i s d i r e c t e d , not i d l y , but as most o f t e n happens (though not n e c e s s a r i l y so) toward t h a t p o i n t not to be predetermined where movement i s b l o c k e d (by the end of l o g i c p e r h a p s ) . I t i s about these p a r t s , i f I am not mistaken, t h a t Gertrude S t e i n w i l l be found. (AN, 3 5 0 - 3 5 1 ) 13  We  are s t r u c k i n t h i s passage by W i l l i a m s ' own  d e s i r e to s t i c k  closely  on the h e e l s o f another a t t e n t i o n t h a t does not s a c r i f i c e language to predetermination.  The  " g o a l " he seeks  i s n o t h i n g l e s s than the  o f a movement i n words such as Gertrude S t e i n e f f e c t s .  complexity  Or a t l e a s t , i n  46  the way  W i l l i a m s hears her work, the w r i t i n g p r o c e s s e s she e x p l o r e s and  enacts document an e x p e r i e n c e o f language,  the  'grammar' o f t h a t  actuality,  always ahead o f the i n t e r p r e t i v e i n t e l l i g e n c e , but toward which the i n t e l l i g e n c e i s drawn out i n t o the energy p r e s e n t i n the a c t i v i t y o f words. argues, and remains indefinite.  "The  o f a chase: the animacy o f the  Here the i n t e l l i g e n c e i s a l i v e , W i l l i a m s  so p r e c i s e l y because i t r e f u s e s to l e t go of the  p r o c e s s e s o f a r t , to keep a l i v e , " we  are t o l d i n the  "Preface" to S e l e c t e d Essays, must always c h a l l e n g e the unknown and go where the most uncertainty l i e s . So t h a t beauty when i t i s found, as i t r a r e l y i s , s h a l l have a touch o f the marvelous about i t , the unknown. (SE, x v i i ) As a s t a t e o f i n d e t e r m i n a c y i n which the a t t e n t i o n i s t i e d to what be predetermined, flexibility  cannot  " u n c e r t a i n t y " m a i n t a i n s the p u r s u i t i n words, the  o f i t i n a c o n t e x t open to change.  I t i s t h i s q u a l i t y o f the  i n t e l l i g e n c e t h a t p r e v e n t s i t from becoming, to use W i l l i a m s ' words, "a h o l e i n t o which we  s i n k d e c o r a t i v e l y to r e s t . "  intelligence falls  o f f i n t o the s e l f - r e f e r e n t i a l i t y o f p r e c o n c e p t i o n ,  language  That i s to say, when the  t u r n s t r a n s p a r e n t and l o s e s i t s a c t u a l i t y .  " I t i s about  these  p a r t s " t h a t W i l l i a m s l o c a t e s Gertrude S t e i n , but what he d i s c o v e r s a l s o d i s c l o s e s what he wants i n h i s own  It  i s movement then.  Animacy  writing.  —  S a t y r s dance! a l l the d e f o r m i t i e s take wing Centaurs l e a d i n g to the r o u t o f the v o c a b l e s i n the w r i t i n g s of Gertrude Stein — but you cannot be an a r t i s t by mere i n e p t i t u d e The dream i s i n p u r s u i t ! (P, 258-259)  47  And  w r i t i n g t h a t i s a c t u a l keeps the mind a l i v e  ment of c o n s c i o u s n e s s  ("in p u r s u i t " ) to the move-  i n language:  A drumming i n my head and p a i n under my arm and i n my groins. Speak o f the l a c k of g e n e r a l i d e a s — J e s u ! i n the writing. I t i s the w r i t i n g . T h i s i s the theme of a l l I do. I t i s the w r i t i n g . Speak of a f l i g h t by plane to Europe, o f the two hundred i n c h t e l e s c o p i c r e f l e c t o r t h a t d i s c o v e r s the n e b u l a on the obscure o u t s k i r t s of the m i l k y way t r a v e l l i n g a t the i n c r e d i b l e speed — away from the e a r t h — of 2500 m i l e s a second: i t i s the a c t u a l w r i t i n g t h a t embodies i t , as the k i n g i n a c h a i r — or a f l e a on a c a t . The g e n e r a l i d e a s — a r e over the w r i t i n g . No. They are the w r i t i n g . The w r i t i n g i s not c a r r y i n g — their jackass. I t i s e s s e n t i a l to a l l e x p o s i t i o n t h a t the w r i t i n g be as d i s c r e e t as the f l i g h t , the n e b u l a , the telescope. I t i s and embodies them a l l . A c t u a l . (AN, 291)  A N o v e l e t t e and Other Prose was  f i n a l l y p u b l i s h e d i n 1932  years a f t e r W i l l i a m s t o l d Pound t h a t "no l a r g e l y through  one w i l l handle  the support of a growing number of  —  two  i t here"  —  friends.  TO P u b l i s h e r s , made up of a group of o b j e c t i v i s t poets — L o u i s Zukofsky, C h a r l e s R e z n i k o f f , and o t h e r s — got t o g e t h e r and d e c i d e d to p u b l i s h some books. A N o v e l e t t e and Other Prose was one o f the f i r s t to appear. (IW, 48)  W i l l i a m s had  reason  to be j u s t i f i e d  i n h i s s a t i s f a c t i o n with  this  p i e c e he l a t e r l o o k e d back on as "a tremendous l e a p ahead o f c o n v e n t i o n a l prose"  (IW,  49).  He  r e v e a l s h i m s e l f i n i t as a "word man"  the f l u r r y of words, e n a c t i n g , through  the excitement  drawn out  of w r i t i n g , what  t u r n s i n t o an i n t i m a t e c r i t i c i s m of contemporary assumptions language.  There i s , r u n n i n g beneath the domestic  the u n s t a t e d but r e p e a t e d  i n s i s t e n c y of a h a u n t i n g  into  concerning  n a r r a t i v e of the  text,  q u e s t i o n : How,  by what  48  means, can the mind d i s - l o d g e i t s e l f from f i x i t y and so be r e l e a s e d to a k i n d o f w r i t i n g i n which language i s v i s i b l e as a l i v e t h i n g ? answer i s o n l y a p p a r e n t l y i n d i r e c t .  "A N o v e l e t t e " ( s u b t i t l e d  Williams'  "January")  was w r i t t e n under the p r e s s u r e of a s p e c i f i c o c c a s i o n , "the r e c e n t e p i d e m i c , " 14 as we l e a r n i n a l e t t e r to Zukofsky dated January 25, 1929. what i s f a r more important, t h i s i n c i d e n t i s l i f t e d s p e c i f i c image.  And y e t ,  i n t o the o c c a s i o n o f a  Nothing s h o r t o f a l a r g e - s c a l e epidemic can b r i n g about  t h i s r e v e r s a l , t h i s upheaval n e c e s s a r y b e f o r e the w r i t e r as "word man" e x p e r i e n c e h i m s e l f as a v o r t e x f o r the animacy I n f l u e n z a : from ' i n f l u e n c e ' — In the breakage i m p l i c i t matter how  can  of words:  "to flow i n "  i n t h i s a t t a c k , whatever  i s p r e c o n c e i v e d , no  i n t r i c a t e the l o g i c a l c o n n e c t i o n s and c o n s i s t e n c i e s o f r e l a t i o n -  s h i p s t h a t c o n s t i t u t e i t s o r d e r , g i v e s way  to what W i l l i a m s i n s e c t i o n I I  c a l l s "The S i m p l i c i t y of D i s o r d e r " : Ring, r i n g , r i n g , ringI There's no end to the r i n g i n g of the damned — The b e l l r i n g s to announce the i l l n e s s of someone e l s e . I t r i n g s today i n t i m a t e l y i n the warm house. That's your bread and b u t t e r . Is the d o c t o r i n ? ( I t used to r i n g . ) What i s i t ? (Out o f the bedroom window.) My c h i l d has swallowed a mouse. — T e l l him to swallow a c a t then. Bam! This i s the second paragraph o f the second c h a p t e r o f some w r i t i n g on the i n f l u e n z a epidemic i n the r e g i o n of New York C i t y , January 11, 1929. In the d i s t a n c e the b u i l d ings f a i l . The b l u e - w h i t e s e a r c h l i g h t - f l a r e wheels over to the west every t h r e e minutes. Count. One. (AN, 275-276)  The i n v a s i o n  —  Ring, r i n g , r i n g , —  ring!  o f a system, any system, mental o r p h y s i c a l , from the o u t s i d e by p a r -  t i c l e s a l i e n to i t , which s u b v e r t by p e n e t r a t i n g the s h e l l , the s k i n o f i t . I n f l u e n z a i s one such i n f l u x of an -unknown and so m y s t e r i o u s q u a n t i t y from somewhere e l s e , f l o w i n g i n from a d i s t a n t out —  i n t h i s case,  49  The i n v a s i o n i s sudden; the p a t i e n t s can g e n e r a l l y t e l l the time when they developed the d i s e a s e ; e.g., acute p a i n s i n the back and l o i n s came on q u i t e suddenly w h i l e they were a t work or w a l k i n g i n the s t r e e t , o r i n the case o f a -medical s t u d e n t , w h i l e p l a y i n g c a r d s , r e n d e r i n g him unable t o c o n t i n u e the game. A workman w h e e l i n g a barrow had t o put i t down and l e a v e i t ; and an omnibus d r i v e r was unable t o p u l l up h i s horses . . . . There are p a i n s i n the limbs and g e n e r a l sense o f a c h i n g a l l over; f r o n t a l headache o f s p e c i a l s e v e r i t y ; p a i n s i n the e y e b a l l s , i n c r e a s e d by the s l i g h t e s t movement o f the eyes; s h i v e r i n g ; g e n e r a l f e e l i n g o f m i s e r y and weakness, and g r e a t d e p r e s s i o n o f s p i r i t s , many p a t i e n t s , both men and women, g i v i n g way t o weeping; nervous r e s t l e s s ness; i n a b i l i t y t o s l e e p , and o c c a s i o n a l l y d e l i r i u m . 1 5 In the i n f i l t r a t i o n o f t h i s d i s t u r b a n c e , the organism, p o s s e s s e d by a f o r c e beyond i t s c o n t r o l , s i m p l e s t element:  finds i t s e l f  reduced to the immediacy o f i t s  i t s physicality.  An e n t i r e community, t h r e a t e n e d by an epidemic, such as the one k i l l 16 i n g around  20 m i l l i o n people d u r i n g 1918-1919,  r e c o g n i t i o n o f what i s alone fundamental to a t t a c k , every one i s v u l n e r a b l e .  i s f o r c e d back t o a  to i t s s u r v i v a l .  Everyone  i s open  Through the primacy o f need, i n o t h e r  words, an epidemic l e v e l s o f f a l l v a l u e s which a r e n o t , as Webster's D i c t i o n a r y d e f i n e s the a c t u a l , " e x i s t i n g a t the p r e s e n t moment." Thus the epidemic had become a c r i t i c i s m — t o b e g i n w i t h . In the s e r i o u s n e s s o f the m o m e n t — not even t h e - s e r i o u s ness but the s i n g l e n e c e s s i t y — t h e extraneous dropped o f i t s own weight. One worked r a p i d l y . Meanwhile v a l u e s stood out i n a l l f i n e n e s s . (AN, 273) And by e x t e n s i o n , the epidemic o f language a l l o w s f o r the r u s h o f words, the m u l t i p l i c i t y o f them i n a f l o w i n g i n from an o u t s i d e a t once l a r g e r than the mind and the c o n d i t i o n o f i t s i n t e r i o r i t y .  Language i s  both t h a t f a r and near a t hand. That's your bread and b u t t e r . Another v o i c e e n t e r s , a l l u r i n g the mind away from t h e temptation t o d e f i n e  50  p r i v a c y s o l e l y by the l i m i t s of s o c i a l r e s p o n s i b i l i t y . doctor i n a s o c i a l  The w r i t e r as  crisis:  There's no end to the r i n g i n g of the damned — The r i n g s to announce the i l l n e s s of someone e l s e . In the s o c i a l i t i s always someone e l s e ' s i l l n e s s There was, on c a l l ,  understandably  f o r Dr. W i l l i a m s ,  bell  t h a t needs  attending.  the c o n t i n u a l p r e s s u r e  i n t e n s i f i e d many times over d u r i n g an epidemic, and  of  being  he gave i n to  16 what seemed l i k e an e n d l e s s take  A Novelette  as r e p r e s e n t a t i v e , W i l l i a m s  d e s c r i p t i o n of t h i n g s may  d r a i n o f energy.  In w r i t i n g , however, i f we i s not  ( i . e . "the r e c e n t e p i d e m i c " ) ,  have done so f o r the sake of " r e a l i s m . " ^  i n t e n t upon a  although  other w r i t e r s  His w r i t i n g attends  to  p a r t i c i p a t i o n s r a t h e r than d e s c r i p t i o n s o f , engagements w i t h language i n the near and  f a r of i t s a c t u a l i t y .  There i s the r i n g i n g need to be on  call  to the c r i s i s of language: I t r i n g s today i n t i m a t e l y i n the warm house. T h i s d i s t i n c t i o n , the o t h e r v o i c e i n t i m a t e s , has to keep the mind c l e a r of secondary concerns. a t t e n t i o n g l i d e s with  to be drawn, even c l a r i f i e d ,  W r i t i n g can be,  the s u r f a c e of words, an e l u s i v e and  i f the  slippery thing.  T h i s i s the second paragraph of the second chapter of some w r i t i n g on the i n f l u e n z a epidemic i n the r e g i o n of New York C i t y , January 11, 1929. —  i f o n l y as a reminder t h a t words come b e f o r e d e s c r i p t i o n s u s i n g them as  a f r o n t , j u s t as p r e s e n t a t i o n comes b e f o r e r e - p r e s e n t a t i o n . go the o t h e r way." i n t o the e n c l o s u r e subordinate  When t h i s p r i o r i t y i s l o s t , of a p e r s o n a l  to a m a n i p u l a t i o n  can o f t e n be a t h i n l i n e , but common and himself:  the w r i t e r f o o l s h i m s e l f  cause, from which p e r s p e c t i v e language i s  of words to h i s own i t i s one  so the most i n v i s i b l e  " I t does not  advantage a l o n e .  that Williams,  This  to i s o l a t e the most  t r a p f o r the w r i t e r , makes v i s i b l e f o r  51  Is of —  the d o c t o r i n ? ( I t . u s e d t o r i n g . ) What i s i t ? (Out the bedroom window.) My c h i l d has swallowed a mouse. T e l l him t o swallow a c a t then. Bam!  There i s , as t h i s c r y p t i c a l l y  f r a n t i c sequence s u g g e s t s , t h a t  crucial  i n s t a n c e o f t u r n i n g away ("Bam"!) from t h e m o t i v a t i o n behind the k i n d o f "cause" i n h e r e n t i n d i a g n o s e s . of  T h i s r e j e c t i o n , as a w r i t e r , o f the method  l o g i c a l a n a l y s i s i n c l u d e s the r e j e c t i o n o f w r i t i n g shaped  by p r e c o n -  c e i v e d i n t e n t i o n s , t h a t i s , by^a p e r s o n a l "cause" imposed on the words. N e i t h e r o f these " c a u s e s " a l l o w s f o r t h a t inwardness,  t h a t moving w i t h  words i n a l i s t e n i n g out o f which they emerge, l i k e so many f i g u r e s a p p e a r i n g and d i s a p p e a r i n g . In the d i s t a n c e the b u i l d i n g s f a i l . The b l u e - w h i t e s e a r c h l i g h t - f l a r e wheels over t o the west every t h r e e minutes. In  the l i g h t of s e a r c h , i n the movement o f w r i t i n g , f i x i t i e s l i k e  l i k e "causes" f a i l :  t h i s i s another b e g i n n i n g , one t h a t proposes a l i s t e n i n g  a t t e n t i v e t o the rhythmic gaps between " t h e words Count.  buildings  One.  themselves."  52  CHAPTER TWO  RIEN KEEN, KEEN 3  Dada: o r Dada-ism: o r the push behind i t t o d i s - l o d g e the mind from i t s f i x i t i e s and t o s u b v e r t the p r e t e n s i o n o f s y s t e m a t i z e d forms o f thought. I t r i e d to put a b i r d i n a cage. 0 f o o l t h a t I am! 1  The a c t u a l i s too q u i c k and s u b t l e to be c o n t a i n e d and l a i d easily.  I t has i t s own r e s o u r c e s .  to break out o f the r a t i o n a l . it  to r e s t so  There i s always an i r r a t i o n a l i t y  waiting  Forms t h a t c u t o f f the crab's f e e l e r s t o make  f i t i n t o a box a r e by t h a t n e g a t i o n v u l n e r a b l e to a t t a c k by those v e r y  f o r c e s they attempt t o overpower.  The a c t u a l moves a c c o r d i n g t o i t s own  necessities. And when I had the b i r d i n the cage. 0 f o o l t h a t I am! Why, i t broke my p r e t t y cage. Dada: Knowledge i s a t h i n g you know and how can you know more than you do know. T h i s i s Gertrude S t e i n quoted by Zukofsky i n an essay on W i l l i a m s : "one o f  53 2 Williams' i n t e r e s t s . " There i s t h i s monotonous c i r c u l a r i t y w i t h i n the c l o s u r e of systems of thought. They can be q u i t e harmless i n themselves when u n d e r s t o o d as l i m i t e d c o n s t r u c t s w i t h i s o l a t e d d u t i e s to perform. They become p e r n i c i o u s once the "known" o f them i s o p p r e s s i v e l y a s s e r t e d as end, the end. way  Imprisoned by t h i s dogmatism, the l i v i n g ,  the a c t u a l has  but t o break out and f l y o f f , or the r e v e r s e , to break i n l i k e  epidemic t o d e c l a r e i t s e l f absent. implicit  Dada: e i t h e r way  no  an  the a b s u r d i t y and the  cost of s e l f - r e f e r e n t i a l i t y i s s e l f - e v i d e n t . And when the b i r d was flown from the cage, 0 f o o l t h a t I ami Why, I had nor b i r d nor cage. S i n g m e r r i l y , T r u t h : I t r i e d to put T r u t h i n a cage! Heigh-ho! T r u t h i n a cage.  In 1921, a year a f t e r The Four Seas Company brought out Kora i n H e l l 3 a t W i l l i a m s ' expense,  Marsden H a r t l e y , p a i n t e r and w r i t e r , a c l o s e  friend  of W i l l i a m s a t the time, p u b l i s h e d Adventures i n the A r t s , a s e r i e s of essays on v a r i o u s American s u b j e c t s and a r t i s t s i n which H a r t l e y  attempts  t o d e f i n e the s u b j e c t as w e l l as the p o s s i b i l i t y of American, a r t forms. The c o n c e r n i s one  t h a t W i l l i a m s shared and s u p p o r t e d . 4  i n S p r i n g and A l l (1923). o f "The Importance  Har.tley i s mentioned  Near the end o f t h i s same book H a r t l e y  speaks  o f B e i n g 'Dada'" i n a s h o r t e s s a y , almost an appendix,  and t h e r e he d e s c r i b e s a D a d a i s t as "one who important than any o t h e r one t h i n g , H e  f i n d s no one t h i n g more  says f u r t h e r t h a t Dadaism  should n o t be mis-understood as another cause, as n o t h i n g more than another c l o s e d system o f thought. would be o f no importance.  Why  I f i t were t h a t , and o n l y t h a t , i t  s u b s t i t u t e one tyranny f o r another?  54  I n s t e a d , Dadaism i s e s s e n t i a l l y a f o r c e that a c t s as a.sweeping g e s t u r e , o r a t u r n o f the hand s i g n a l l i n g a r e f u s a l to p a r t i c i p a t e any f u r t h e r i n the artificiality —  s o c i a l , p o l i t i c a l , c u l t u r a l , i n t e l l e c t u a l , and a r t i s t i c  of  those forms o f thought  to  "the P a s t . "  remains  T h i s n e g a t i o n ' i s not a f i n a l end, but when the mind  i n such a dead-end, d e n i a l —  the one way  integrity.  "Men,  rien, rien!"  to e x t r i c a t e i t s e l f w i t h o u t compromising  With a thunderous  God over Man,  allegiance  And here the p a s t can he a n y t h i n g and e v e r y t h i n g up to the  v e r y moment i t s e l f . finds i t s e l f  t h a t depend f o r t h e i r power on t h e i r  —  No!  (GAN,  174)  i t s own  to a l l imposed forms o f s i g n i f i c a n c e  S o u l over M a t t e r , A r t over L i f e , Reason over Sense,  —  Thought  over Language, a l l such h i e r a r c h i e s which f i x the p r e s e n t i n s t a t i c forms and an e q u a l l y thunderous  Yes!  to the s t a t e o f n o n - s i g n i f i c a n c e ,  D a d a i s t w i t h h i s da da da c l e a r s the way left  f o r what i s l e f t .  —  —  the  And what i s  i n t h i s d e s t r u c t i o n i s n o t h i n g o t h e r than the l i v i n g a c t u a l , the same  a c t u a l t h a t cannot be caged by thought, engaged, but never caged.  One  of  the i s s u e s , " A r t " ( c a p i t a l i z e d ) , the D a d a i s t s s i n g l e out f o r s p e c i a l a t t a c k . Not  the a r t which i s an e x t e n s i o n : o f l i f e  f o r c e s , as say i n the p r e h i s t o r i c  cave p a i n t i n g s , but the c o n s t r i c t i n g concept of " A r t " as a p r i v i l e g e d form, as then a c a t e g o r y o f thought s e p a r a b l e from the a c t u a l , i n a s p e c i a l realm a l l to i t s e l f —  and v a l u e d f o r t h a t reason a l o n e .  W i l l i a m s mentions  the "handcuffs o f ' a r t ' " i n S p r i n g and A l l (SA, 97), and more than he has t h i s i n mind. "Art"  In the f a l s e but s t u b b o r n l y h e l d assumption  stands above, or over l i f e ,  with a f i x i t y  a r t i s t s and w r i t e r s h a n d c u f f  likely that  themselves  t h a t d e n i e s the a u t h e n t i c f u n c t i o n o f a r t : to f r e e the mind  from a l l imposed h i e r a r c h i e s o f "thought" and to re-open the immediacy o f the p r e s e n t .  As a g e s t u r e o f n e g a t i v e f o r c e , Dadaism w i t h i t s " r i e n "  thus broke the s p e l l o f " A r t " ( c a p i t a l i z e d ) .  55  In t h i s l a r g e r sense,  as seen by W i l l i a m s a t l e a s t , the D a d a i s t s a r e  symptomatic o f a f o r c e w i t h i n the mind t h a t r e f u s e s , l i k e the b i r d i n W i l l i a m s ' e a r l y poem "The F o o l ' s Song," to be caged by i t s own o b s o l e t e forms.  I t i s the l i v i n g i m a g i n a t i o n they embody, an energy i n the mind  comparable t o " e l e c t r i c i t y "  as W i l l i a m s .says i n S p r i n g and A l l (SA, 150)  —  which r e t u r n s w i t h a vengeance when c o n s t r i c t e d by an o r d e r t h a t s u r v i v e s by denying  the a c t u a l .  The p r e s e n t c o n s t a n t l y demands the d e s t r u c t i o n o f  the o l d , the known world,  i n f a v o r o f the p r e s s i n g d e s i r e s - o f the new,  which by d e f i n i t i o n i s always the c o n d i t i o n o f an un-known w o r l d . i m a g i n a t i o n , f r e e d from the h a n d c u f f s  "The  o f ' a r t , ' takes the l e a d ! " (SA, 9 7 ) .  A few pages b e f o r e t h i s d e c l a r a t i o n i n S p r i n g and A l l W i l l i a m s hims e l f proposes n o t h i n g l e s s than a l a r g e - s c a l e h o l o c a u s t , a d a d a i s t i c d e s t r u c t i o n of a world accounts  t h a t i s past  f o r the p r e s e n t .  (The p a s t ) simply because i t no l o n g e r  A g a i n s t t h i s c o n s t r u c t , the h o l o c a u s t , l i k e an  epidemic,  o r l i k e Dadaism, would break i n t o d e s t r o y a p a s t t h a t  a present  from b r e a k i n g through.  prevents  I t i s the renewal o f the mind's f o r c e , we  s h o u l d emphasize, t h a t c a r r i e s W i l l i a m s : o u t s i d e o f any dead form the mind c l i n g s t o f o r comfort (SA,  92) —  immediacy.  ready  l i v e s t h a t " b i z a r r e f o w l " (SA, 92) —  "Oh l i f e "  t o take wing i n o r d e r to r e - a s s e r t i t s primacy, i t s  I n t h i s t r a n s f o r m a t i o n , the a c t u a l once a g a i n r e t u r n s t o the  s p r i n g o f i t s forwardness.  Over a g a i n s t the " A r t " ( c a p i t a l i z e d ) t h a t  stands over l i f e , W i l l i a m s wants t h a t " a r t " which extends l i f e by t a k i n g i t s l e a d from the f o r c e o f t h e i m a g i n a t i o n .  processes  "Yes, the i m a g i n a t i o n , "  he w r i t e s , drunk w i t h p r o h i b i t i o n s , has d e s t r o y e d and r e c r e a t e d e v e r y t h i n g a f r e s h , i n the l i k e n e s s o f t h a t which i t was. Now indeed men l o o k about i n amazement a t each o t h e r w i t h a f u l l r e a l i z a t i o n o f the meaning o f ' a r t . ' (SA, 93)  56  We  w i l l r e t u r n l a t e r to a more s p e c i f i c u n d e r s t a n d i n g  of ' a r t , ™ but  f o r the moment we-might remind o u r s e l v e s  d e s t r u c t i o n of o b s o l e t e when the o p p r e s s i v e  of t h i s  "meaning  t h a t i n the  forms of thought, i n the i n s t a n t of t h a t d e s t r u c t i o n ,  b u i l d i n g s of thought crumble, the world  brought back to a s t a t e o f newness — H a r t l e y ' s statement, now  no one  i s once  again  " e v e r y t h i n g a f r e s h , " or to r e - s t a t e  t h i n g i s any more or l e s s than any  other  thing.  S i n c e a l l t h i n g s as t h i n g s are p a r t i c u l a r s , a l l t h i n g s , to t h a t  extent,  are e q u a l , no  values  assigned  l o n g e r d i s p o s a b l e through the o v e r l a y of secondary  to them by v i r t u e of t h e i r " p o s i t i o n " i n a h i e r a r c h i c frame  o f r e f e r e n c e , p a r t s o f a whole t h a t i s g r e a t e r and which, they are merely a p a r t , a s i g n say, somewhere e l s e , empty i n i t s e l f . i t s own  Now  Words, f o r i n s t a n c e : but,  the mind comes i n t o a new the mind's a c t s  t h a t does n o t h i n g more than p o i n t  each t h i n g i s s u b s t a n t i a l , e x i s t s i n  ("No  in a field  as w e l l , i n "A N o v e l e t t e "  i d e a s but i n t h i n g s " ) .  of e x i s t i n g  become a c t u a l i n themespecially,  f e e l i n g f o r t h i n g s as themselves the c o n t e x t  s a y i n g t h a t the mind i s i t s e l f one and  through which, because of  r i g h t : s i g n s t h a t b e f o r e were t r a n s p a r e n t now  selves.  T h i s i s o n l y another way  ( i . e . moving) t h i n g s .  or " S c i e n c e , " or " P h i l o s o p h y " ) . f u n c t i o n s as an e x t e n s i o n  i n "the moment" (AN,  of  V a l u e i s no l o n g e r make-  t h i s new  (such as " A r t , "  sense of the  of what H a r t l e y i n the same essay  particular  calls  the same l i v i n g p r e s e n t  "the  Williams  In t h i s " s i n g l e n e c e s s i t y " which then a r i s e s to s t a y 273),  d e s t r u c t i v e f o r c e , but with  Instead,  e x c i t a t i o n o f the moment,"  wants the h o l d o f .  of  of the a c t u a l i t i e s of the w o r l d , both of  s h i f t , no l o n g e r dependent upon a b s t r a c t e d forms of r e f e r e n c e  brilliant  one  one  the epidemic, l i k e Dadaism, t u r n s out that a l l o w s  the complex s u r f a c e s of t h i n g s , as Where the drop of r a i n had  to be a  the mind to r e l e a s e i t s e l f , to move things:  been, t h e r e remained a d e l i c a t e  57  b l a c k s t a i n , the o u t l i n e of the drop marked c l e a r l y on the white p a i n t , i n b l a c k , w i t h i n which a shadow, a smoothest tone faded upward between the l i n e s and b u r s t them, t h i n n i n g out upon the woodwork down which the r a i n had come. I n the tops of the screws the p o l i s h i n g powder c o u l d be seen w h i t e . And W i l l i a m s ' " t h u s ? " Thus the epidemic had become a c r i t i c i s m — to b e g i n with. In the s e r i o u s n e s s o f the moment — not even the s e r i o u s n e s s but the s i n g l e n e c e s s i t y — the extraneous dropped of i t s own weight. One worked rapidly. Meanwhile v a l u e s stood out i n a l l f i n e n e s s . (AN, 273) And  l a t e r on i n the same s e c t i o n , "A Paradox:" January.  A.Novelette  January.  (AN,  275)  i s s u b t i t l e d "January:"  the epidemic  and•Dadaism, n e i t h e r  of them as f i n a l ends, but as c r i t i c i s m s which w i l l not permit r e t r e a t from the " s i n g l e n e c e s s i t y " of the p r e s e n t moment. are g e s t u r e s  ("to b e g i n with") t h a t re-open  the mind to  Both of them  the e x p e r i e n c e of the  actual,  make p o s s i b l e the mind's r e t u r n to b e g i n n i n g s , to the c o n d i t i o n o f "January."  "To b e g i n w i t h " —  one way  of v i e w i n g the d a d a i s t elements i n The  Great American Novel, S p r i n g and A l l ,  and A N o v e l e t t e and Other P r o s e , a l l  of which were w r i t t e n d u r i n g the 20's, w i t h o u t a D a d a i s t i n too s t r i c t a sense. nightmare of the war shores.  As Maurice  i n s i s t i n g that Williams  The European Dadaism born i n the  was  dark  grew out of c o n d i t i o n s q u i t e d i s t a n t from American Nadeau says i n The H i s t o r y of S u r r e a l i s m , t h i s  parti-  c u l a r form of Dadaism, the e x p l o s i v e d i s s e n t of T r i s t a n T z a r a , f o r i n s t a n c e , made " e n t h u s i a s t i c c o n v e r t s i n a conquered Germany a t g r i p s w i t h  famine,  58  poverty," and r e v o l u t i o n a r y r i o . t s . " ?  In h i s work, as f a r as we  can  tell,  W i l l i a m s n e i t h e r f u r t h e r e d the s p e c i f i c i s s u e s of European Dadaism, nor d i d he p u b l i c l y a l i g n h i m s e l f with, t h a t -movement.  And y e t ,  understandably  enough, he c o u l d e a s i l y i d e n t i f y with- the l i n g u i s t i c ground of the D a d a i s t ' s a t t a c k on r e a s o n : the word "dada" i t s e l f , about which Georges RibementDessaignes  i n h i s H i s t o r y o f Dada has  the f o l l o w i n g to o f f e r : " I t means  n o t h i n g , aims to mean n o t h i n g , and was  adopted  p r e c i s e l y because o f i t s  g absence of meaning."  I f dada means " n o t h i n g , " then the "absence of meaning"  s i g n a l s a r e l i e f from the s u f f o c a t i n g o b s e s s i o n w i t h the meaning of words at  the expense of t h e i r o b j e c t i v i t y .  the e x p e r i e n c e of language, understood In  o n l y too w e l l .  and  The word dada, i n t h i s way,  t h i s sense of p l a y i n g w i t h words W i l l i a m s  He heard  i t v e r y much i n h i s own  the few y e a r s p r i o r to 1917,  ear.  the year America .joined the war, .  ;  W i l l i a m s d i d , however, come i n t o c o n t a c t i n New  York w i t h a c e r t a i n form of  Dadaism, though Dadaism as such had not y e t e x i s t e d , through and work of M a r c e l Duchamp.  re-opens  W i l l i a m s admits  the  presence  i n h i s Autobiography  the  puzzlement o f , and h i s uneasiness w i t h , t h i s e n i g m a t i c French a r t i s t  and  9 double-talker,  the maker of "ready-mades" and The Nude Descending  S t a i r c a s e , the one p a i n t i n g t h a t t h o r o u g h l y s c a n d a l i z e d the New world a t the 1913  Armory Show.  work, s c a t t e r e d and of  As we  the  York a r t  s h a l l see, h i s r e f e r e n c e s to Duchamp's  few as they a r e , suggest  t h a t t h i s work, the  experience  i t s e f f e c t on c o n v e n t i o n a l n o t i o n s of a r t form, d i d p o i n t to p o s s i b i l i t i e s  in writing for Williams. The  s o - c a l l e d i n f l u e n c e of Dadaism, l i k e  w r i t e r s and movements i n W i l l i a m s ' l i f e , mind, of the s t r u g g l e f o r the NEW,  the i n f l u e n c e of so many  i s one more m a n i f e s t a t i o n , i n h i s  In t h i s a s s e r t i o n , W i l l i a m s e n v i s i o n e d  59  a NEW  w o r l d , t h a t v i t a nuova he f e l t p u s h i n g for'embodiment i n h i s  e x p e r i e n c e of language.  We might  call  i t "modernism."  The  own  q u e s t i o n of  i n f l u e n c e i n W i l l i a m s ' work, i n o t h e r words, i s more o f t e n than not questionable i n i t s e l f we  because  i t remains  can almost go s o : f a r as - to argue  so double-edged.  On the one hand,  t h a t a n y t h i n g and e v e r y t h i n g , p o s i t i v e - o r  n e g a t i v e , i n some way  "influenced" Williams.  He was  w r i t e r , as anyone who  has r e a d him s e r i o u s l y knows.  an i n t e n s e l y  public  The whole o f h i s  S e l e c t e d E s s a y s , which begins w i t h h i s " P r o l o g u e " to Kora i n H e l l , a l l the p i e c e s he wrote on a r t a n d , a r t i s t s c o l l e c t e d i n A R e c o g n i z a b l e Image, not to mention  h i s S e l e c t e d L e t t e r s and h i s Autobiography,  not even to mention a l l  the essays and reviews t h a t have not as y e t been c o l l e c t e d , a t t e s t to t h i s side of h i s nature.  "Granted my  i n t e r e s t i n w r i t i n g , " he says s i m p l y i n h i s  " P r e f a c e " t o the S e l e c t e d E s s a y s , " t o make the poets p a r t i c u l a r l y more a c c e p t e d i n what they say, I wanted to r e i n t e r p r e t them and r e l a t e them to the w o r l d " as w e l l .  (SE, x v i ) .  The aim, o f c o u r s e , a p p l i e s to w r i t e r s and  On the o t h e r hand, when i t became a q u e s t i o n o f h i s own  r i g h t from the b e g i n n i n g , i f we did,  his  p a r t i c u l a r sense o f what he wanted from  I t i s f o r t h i s v e r y reason, the obvious f o o t - s t o m p i n g a s i d e ,  a s s e r t i o n i n the "Prologue," —  nature.  that  " I ' l l w r i t e whatever I damn p l e a s e , when-  ever I damn p l e a s e and as I damn p l e a s e " (K, 13) — his  writing,  e x c l u d e Poems (1909), he c o u l d , and m o s t l y  s t u b b o r n l y m a i n t a i n h i s own  writing.  artists  e q u a l l y r i n g s t r u e to  Could anyone but W i l l i a m s have w r i t t e n Kora i n H e l l ?  It is  not e x a c t l y a q u e s t i o n o f i n f l u e n c e .  T h i s i s another way d a d a i s t elements W i l l i a m s was label.  of s a y i n g t h a t i t i s p o s s i b l e to t a l k about  the  i n W i l l i a m s ' work without l a b e l l i n g him a D a d a i s t . ^  too r e s t l e s s a w r i t e r ever to be caught under the g u i s e of a  Brought  i n t o a p i e c e of w r i t i n g w h o l e s a l e , Dadaism  (capitalized)  60  c o u l d o n l y l e a d to another  c l o s u r e , and W i l l i a m s , of a l l w r i t e r s ,  c o n t i n u a l l y guarded a g a i n s t the p r e d e t e r m i n a t i o n of h i s w r i t i n g by  any  g i v e n f i x e d p o i n t of view, which Dadaism taken as an end.would be. a f o r c e , as an i n i t i a l n e g a t i o n t h a t says No!  e s p e c i a l l y t o W i l l i a m s , s i n c e the D a d a i s t s brought  Kora i n H e l l . Being  Jersey.  And  i n t o p u b l i c view a  language t h a t he had undergone when he wrote  Dadaism, then, by the time H a r t l e y wrote "The  'Dada'" i n 1921,  as  to reason as end, i t  c o u l d b r i n g r e l i e f , even to W i l l i a m s i n R u t h e r f o r d , New  s i m i l a r c r i s i s of mind and  But  Importance of  must have been l e s s "news" to W i l l i a m s than a  c l a r i f i c a t i o n t h a t confirmed h i s own  d e s i r e f o r new  have supported  own  the b a s i s of Breton's  beginnings.  f a r e w e l l to Dada  He might  —  I t s h a l l not be s a i d t h a t Dadaism s e r v e d any o t h e r purpose than to keep us i n t h a t s t a t e of p e r f e c t a v a i l a b i l i t y i n which we are and from which we s h a l l now s e t out w i t h l u c i d i t y toward what c l a i m s us f o r i t s own.H Breton i s t a l k i n g about the o r i g i n s of S u r r e a l i s m as an advancement, a r e b u i l d i n g n e c e s s a r y a f t e r the d e s t r u c t i o n brought  on by Dadaism.  Whether  12 B r e t o n i s r i g h t or n o t , —  h i s phrase  —  " t h a t s t a t e of p e r f e c t  s u i t s W i l l i a m s v e r y w e l l : Dadaism understood  the a c t u a l breaks  The  as a means through  through, because of which something e l s e c o u l d  happen, the a v a i l a b i l i t y of new of a new  forms,  f o r i n s t a n c e , o r the  sense of e x p e r i e n c e interwoven w i t h a new  two  availability"  sense o f  which now  availability language.  times W i l l i a m s mentions Dadaism i n I Wanted to W r i t e a_ Poem  are n o t a b l e f o r t h e i r absence of d e t a i l . P a r i s , . f o r - i n s t a n c e , he  comments,  T a l k i n g about h i s 1924  trip  to  61  I had met Soupault i n P a r i s , He was a v e r y amusing p e r s o n , r e a l l y amusing, a l l wound up i n Dadaism. I d i d n ' t u n d e r s t a n d what Dadaism was hut I l i k e d Soupault, (IW, 47) What W i l l i a m s  says here i s so sparse t h a t i t sounds almost c r y p t i c ,  a l t h o u g h i n t h a t c h a r a c t e r i s t i c uneasiness he had ends, he  w i t h "movements" as  does s h i f t a t t e n t i o n immediately from Soupault the D a d a i s t  Soupault the man.  And  i n t e l l i g e n c e , t h a t he another one  y e t i t i s so u n l i k e l y , g i v e n W i l l i a m s ' " d i d n ' t u n d e r s t a n d " Dadaism.  i n r e l a t i o n to "A  13  Against  to  sharp t h i s remark,  Novelette:"  The p i e c e s i n t h i s book show the i n f l u e n c e of Dadaism. I d i d n ' t o r i g i n a t e Dadaism but I had i t i n my s o u l to w r i t e i t . S p r i n g and A l l shows t h a t . P a r i s had i n f l u enced me; there i s a French f e e l i n g i n t h i s work. (IW, 48-49) Williams'  statement t h a t he d i d n ' t  because there are no ever thought he l a b e l to the man, i t , " he which he —  says,  did.  i n d i c a t i o n s i n h i s work t h a t he, But  again,  i d e n t i f i e d and  curious  or anyone e l s e ,  h i s a t t e n t i o n q u i c k l y s h i f t s from  t h i s time, to h i m s e l f .  thus s u g g e s t i n g  that releases  " o r i g i n a t e Dadaism" sounds  " I had  t h a t Dadaism was  more the i n s t a n c e  i t i n my  the  s o u l to w r i t e  l e s s a movement w i t h  of a way  —  an i n i t i a l  breakage  the mind to the p l a y of language.  In t h i s sense, i t i s p o s s i b l e t h a t W i l l i a m s  viewed Dadaism (to  use  14  Ribemont-Dessaigne's phrase) as "a movement of the mind"  that prepared  the ground f o r the S u r r e a l i s t e x p l o r a t i o n i n t o the n a t u r e of language. h i n t s as much i n a l e t t e r to Norman Macleod w r i t t e n i n 1945 he  t a l k s about a d e s i r e " t o w r i t e  artists" — He  and  the weight, we  goes on to e x p l a i n t h a t he  ( J u l y 25)  He where  something on the S u r r e a l i s t s , as F r e n c h  n o t i c e , f a l l s h e a v i l y on sees S u r r e a l i s m  the word F r e n c h .  as a  s c i e n c e of misnomers (a p u r e l y l o c a l and temporal phase) e v a d i n g c o r r e c t nomenclature, e n t i r e l y a p r o d u c t of  62  contemporary F r a n c e . The Immediate s e q u e l of Dadaism and the F i r s t World War w i t h the a c t u a l but d i v e r t e d d e f e a t of France, (SL, 240) Names t i e the world of any  together  i n language, so much so t h a t most speakers  g i v e n language are r a r e l y aware t h a t language c o n d i t i o n s  The word-men W i l l i a m s have e x p e r i e n c e d  admires —  and  the S u r r e a l i s t s are more i n s t a n c e s  language as both here and  there, a possession  hand, but  some-thing t h a t l i v e s i t s own  t h i n g s by  t h e i r wrong names, as c h i l d r e n l o v e to do,  breaks i n . restless.  N o t h i n g i s any  experience.  life  as w e l l .  Begin and  on the  —  one  calling  suddenly  l o n g e r s e t t l e d , the words become w i r y  confusion and  Mis-naming something throws',language i n t o r e l i e f as something.  "Thus, 'The  Nude Descending a S t a i r c a s e , ' " W i l l i a m s w r i t e s to Macleod,  i s a c t u a l l y the F a l l of France — which c o u l d not be s t a t e d — f o r m a l l y i n any o t h e r way. The S u r r e a l i s m t h a t f o l l o w e d t h i s e a r l y , and i s o l a t e d example, a c o n t i n u e d misnaming o f e x t e r n a l e v e n t s , an appearance had to be i n v e n t e d to f i t the m i s a p p l i c a t i o n . I t s g e n e r a l c h a r a c t e r i s thus s e l f - e v i d e n t , both the s u b j e c t and i t s treatment. (SL, 240)  And  so i n "A N o v e l e t t e " W i l l i a m s  surrealists,  take Soupault's  p r a i s e s the S u r r e a l i s t s —  Les. D e r n i e r e s  N u i t s de Paris"'*' — 5  "Take the for their  e f f o r t i n b r i n g i n g language back to " i t s January" by making "the words i n t o sentences t h a t w i l l have a f a n t a s t i c r e a l i t y which i s f a l s e " t h a t i s , by "misnaming."  By so d o i n g ,  (AN,  280),  they r e v e a l t h a t o t h e r f a l s e n e s s ,  when language i s s u b s e r v i e n t to the s a l e of o l d c l o t h e s and i d e a s and the formulas f o r the s y n t h e t i c manufacture of rubber (AN, 280-281) The  S u r r e a l i s t s a r e thus exemplary f o r the way  constructive i n t e l l e c t  (reason as end)  i n which they undermine, the -  i n : f a v o r of the a c t u a l i t y  of  language: the words as p a r t i c l e s by and  i n which human d e s i r e seeks to  explore, manifest  and  We might add,  words.  make language s u b s e r v i e n t  Those who  discover i t s e l f .  by w r i t i n g i n the  to " i d e a s " b e t r a y the  very  63  thing  ("No  subvert  i d e a s but  i n t h i n g s " ) which i s most human i n man.  Hence they  t h a t which i s c l o s e s t to d e s i r e , "House f o r s a l e . " (AN,  281)  Words become so much r e a l e s t a t e , and not they a r e .  According  to W i l l i a m s ,  the e s t a t e of the r e a l which  French S u r r e a l i s m  c l e a r s out  this  false  premise: S u r r e a l i s m does not l i e . I t i s the s i n g l e t r u t h . It i s an epidemic. I t i s . I t i s j u s t words. (AN, 281)  And  y e t , and  s i g n i f i c a n t l y enough, s i n c e p a r t i c u l a r i s m i s the e f f e c t  of an epidemic t h a t b r i n g s  t h i n g s back to t h e i r " J a n u a r y , " W i l l i a m s  to the s p e c i f i c a l l y F r e n c h n a t u r e of S u r r e a l i s m . w r i t e r s can l e a r n from i t , but because S u r r e a l i s m  is itself  He  and  other  to copy i t w h o l e s a l e would be  a particular —  a new  points  American  disastrous,  thing:  ... i t i s French. I t i s t h e i r i n v e n t i o n : one. That language i s i n constant r e v o l u t i o n , c o n s t a n t l y b e i n g covered, merded, s t o l e n , s l i m e d . Theirs. I t i s i n the k i n d t h a t we should see i t . I n t h a t d i v e r s i t y of the mind which i s e x c e l l e n c e , l i k e a t r e e — one s i n g l e t r e e — French — i t i s surrealism. It i s of t h a t k i n d which i s the a c t u a l . (AN, 281) Language i s c o n s t a n t l y words are c o n s t a n t l y past w o r l d . S p r i n g and (SA,  "being  l o v e can be  r i g h t here he  the word " k i n d , " one tarily  i s obsolete," Williams  re-discovered  "at the  of the words "covered o v e r , " but  A very  / petal" Williams  r e t r i e v e s a more p r i m a r y , a more a c t i v e sense o f  d e f i n i t i o n of " k i n d : " Rare or A r c h a i c ,  c. manner; way.  edge of the  says i n  " I t i s i n the k i n d , "  to get at the p a r t i c u l a r i t y of S u r r e a l i s m .  note one  negatively,  c o v e r e d " over w i t h meanings t h a t c l i n g to a  As a symbol o f l o v e , the "rose A l l , but  c o n d i t i o n s , or s t a t e d  107-108) of a r o s e , as words can as w e l l .  argues, and  we  changing to meet new  dense word indeed has  uncovered momen-  In Webster's D i c t i o n a r y , a. o r i g i n , b. n a t u r e ,  been degraded and  thus  64  emptied  of i t s s u b s t a n t i a l i t y .  And W i l l i a m s i m p l i e s t h a t a world i n which  " k i n d " had substance must have p a i d a t t e n t i o n t o the a c t u a l i t y o f language, not covered over, can we say l o s t , i n such g e n e r a l i t i e s as sort; variety; class.  (Webster's)  I t i s i n k i n d , then, t h a t such a p a r t i c u l a r form as  S u r r e a l i s m has come i n t o "appearance"  ( t o quote  the term W i l l i a m s uses i n  h i s l e t t e r to M a c l e o d ) : a r e t u r n t o o r i g i n s as a concern f o r what i s primary i n human n a t u r e made p o s s i b l e through the way o f language. Through W i l l i a m s ' eyes, the emergence o f S u r r e a l i s m i s no d i f f e r e n t t h a t o f the I n d i a n i n America,  from  i n d i g e n o u s but n e g l e c t e d , "a n a t u r a l  e x p r e s s i o n o f the p l a c e , the I n d i a n h i m s e l f as ' r i g h t , ' the f l o w e r o f h i s w o r l d " (TAG, 138). " l i k e a tree — And  I n S u r r e a l i s m , France i s embodied i n a r o o t e d t h i n g ,  one s i n g l e t r e e —  French —  i t i s s u r r e a l i s m " (AN, 281).  t h i s k i n d o f t h i n g , r o o t e d , so W i l l i a m s ( c i r c a 1929) b e l i e v e s , does  not e x i s t i n America. deadness o f language  I f , however, the S u r r e a l i s t s can break through the forms i n F r a n c e , then American  w r i t e r s must be a b l e  to do the same t h i n g i n t h e i r w o r l d .  Or as W i l l i a m s had spoken o f t h i s same n e c e s s i t y i n . 1923 American 175).  i n The Great  N o v e l : "We must i m i t a t e t h e . m o t i v a t i o n and shun the r e s u l t " (GAN,  I t i s from t h i s p o s i t i o n t h a t he had then argued the need f o r  American  w r i t e r s t o break away from European  models.(the  " f o r e i g n " i s not  o f the n a t u r e o f "kind") i n o r d e r " t o b e g i n t o f i n d a shape — to b e g i n a g a i n " (P, 167), t o quote  to b e g i n  the way he puts i t i n . P a t e r s o n , h i s  own " r e p l y ; t o Greek and L a t i n w i t h the bare hands" (P, 10);.' He i s t a l k i n g about European music,  but a l l forms o f a r t share the consequences:  Tear i t a l l a p a r t . S t a r t w i t h one n o t e . One word. Chant i t over and over f o r t y d i f f e r e n t ways. But i t would be s t u p i d — I t would, i f " - i t were what I mean — i t would be  65  accurate. I t would a r t i c u l a t e w i t h something. I t would s i g n i f y r e l i e f . Release I mean. I t would be t h e b e g i n n i n g . (GAN, 174-175) R e l i e f and r e l e a s e : the " r i e n , r i e n , r i e n " o f Dadaism as an " a p o t h e o s i s o f relief"  (GAN, 173) and the S u r r e a l i s t r e l e a s e i n t o language,  r e s t o r e t o the mind the primacy  of experience.  What W i l l i a m s wants i n the 20's i s a c r i t i c a l writing —  both o f which  r e a d i n g o f modernist  the k i n d o f w r i t i n g a c t u a l t o the c o n d i t i o n s o f i t s time.  "Reading w i l l  become an a r t " (AN, 364), so he hopes i n a "Statement" a t  the end o f A N o v e l e t t e .  I t i s thus not s u r p r i s i n g t h a t the w r i t e r - W i l l i a m s  might a t times become the r e a d e r - W i l l i a m s and t h a t he might, i n t h i s c a p a c i t y , t u r n t o the l i k e s o f a Shakespeare o r a Joyce i n h i s e f f o r t t o f u r t h e r modernist  w r i t i n g i n America.  No doubt, as a w r i t e r , he i s simply  l o o k i n g f o r news from o t h e r w r i t e r s which can be o f use i n h i s own w r i t i n g , but as a r e a d e r — seeking c r i t i c a l America.  and W i l l i a m s d i d take t h i s task s e r i o u s l y —  he i s  terms t o make a r e a d e r s h i p f o r such w r i t i n g a v a i l a b l e i n  66  CHAPTER THREE  THE LANGUAGE  .  .  . THE  LANGUAGE  W i l l i a m s ' deep attachment to Shakespeare began as f a r back as i n h i s c h i l d h o o d , when h i s f a t h e r , so we l e a r n i n h i s Autobiography, f i r s t duced him to the work o f the E l i z a b e t h a n , "whom I read a v i d l y , from b e g i n n i n g to end" (A, 15).  intro-  practically  F u r t h e r on i n t h i s same book, Shakespeare  i s mentioned a g a i n , t h i s time i n terms of W i l l i a m s ' d e c i s i o n to become a writer.  "Words o f f e r e d themselves," he s a y s , "and I jumped a t them.  w r i t e , l i k e Shakespeare!" (A, 48).  Q u i t e an a m b i t i o n , to be s u r e , but the  excitement o f the p o s s i b i l i t y - took r o o t — c o n s t a n t companion  i n W i l l i a m s ' mind."''  and Shakespeare remained a  I n The Embodiment o f Knowledge,  he even goes so f a r as to c a l l Shakespeare "My f e e l i n g of k i n s h i p as w e l l .  G r a n d f a t h e r " (EK, 110).  A  I t i s here t h a t we a r e a l s o o f f e r e d , however  incomplete, a more i n s i g h t f u l u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f Shakespeare's f o r W i l l i a m s , as a w r i t e r who  To  significance,  c o n t i n u e s t o be a source f o r modernist w r i t e r s .  But not simply because Shakespeare was  a " g r e a t " d r a m a t i s t , and as such,  n e c e s s a r y r e a d i n g , say i n the c u l t u r a l eyes of W i l l i a m s ' E n g l i s h  father.  67 More than t h a t , Shakespeare's p l a y s p r e f i g u r e the e f f o r t behind modernism to make language a c t u a l .  Here W i l l i a m s  k i n d of American w r i t i n g he  thought p o s s i b l e once the tyranny  forms o f thought were overcome — i s t s i n France — experience, ceived  c o u l d l o c a t e a working model f o r the  the work of the D a d a i s t s  of d i s c u r s i v e  and  the S u r r e a l -  and w r i t i n g c o u l d once a g a i n become an e x t e n s i o n  of  not -merely a c o n t a i n e r i n t o which w r i t e r s pour t h e i r p r e c o n -  ideas.  In the p l a y s themselves (as p l a y s ) , W i l l i a m s c a t i o n of t h a t f i g u r e of the w r i t e r , the "word man"  c o u l d see who  the e x e m p l i f i -  l i v e s so much i n  h i s words t h a t the b i o g r a p h i c impulse i s r e s i s t e d c o m p l e t e l y . literally  disappears  i n t o h i s words; they are not assumed to be  v e h i c l e s burdened w i t h theory of l i f e ,  Shakespeare transparent  the " t h o u g h t s " o f the w r i t e r , what he b e l i e v e s , h i s  or whatever he  t h i n k s p r i o r to the a c t of w r i t i n g .  are deeds through which Shakespeare composed an a c t u a l w o r l d .  As  Words Williams  says, He i s not a d e a l e r i n a b s t r a c t i o n s u s i n g a p l a y as a s u b t e r f u g e , words, w r i t i n g as a means. But the w r i t i n g i s a l l and o n l y . (EK, 14) Shakespeare d i d not use words, as do the " i d e a - v e n d o r s " "A  Williams attacks i n  Novelette," to t r a n s m i t a b s t r a c t i d e a s . They were a switchboard f o r t h i n g s and p e o p l e ' s growth and movements, i n r e v e r s e . The a c t i o n s p r e s s e d the keys and r e c o r d e d them on the page. (EK, 15)  Shakespeare was all  the p l a y "  h i m s e l f an instrument  of a c t i o n i n words, "he  i s a l l play,  (EK, .15) .  Even more i m p o r t a n t l y perhaps, i n Shakespeare's p l a y s , W i l l i a m s sees the emergence of new  f o r c e s , new  concerns,  a new  view of the  also  world  t h a t undermines Shakespeare's h o l d on language, a change t h a t c o u l d  be  68  read as an h i s t o r i c s h i f t  i n a t t i t u d e s toward language —  as a r e v e l a t i o n of human a c t s to the d i s c u r s i v e use  over from language  of language as a  tool,  an instrument of c o n t r o l over t h i n g s .  T h i s s h i f t marks the b e g i n n i n g of a  " c l e a v a g e " (SA,  word i n S p r i n g and  words and  111),  things  to use W i l l i a m s '  t h a t has  continued  i n t o the e a r l y part, of the 20th  To W i l l i a m s ,  the e f f e c t of t h i s change i s most e v i d e n t  "philosophy"  he c r i t i c i z e s  but e q u a l l y i n any  i n A Novelette  form of thought  A l l , between  and  The  i n the  century.  "science"  and  Embodiment of Knowledge,  ( " l i t e r a r y " or otherwise) t h a t  attempts  to cage the a c t u a l by making i t conform to a p r e c o n c e i v e d frame o f r e f e r ence. one  Bacon e n t e r s  the stage a t the b e g i n n i n g of t h i s new  t h a t works to sever  constitutes i t s e l f born.  the bond between words and  through t h a t severance.  Language becomes secondary.  A new  Words are  methodology,  things, i n fact k i n d of " o b j e c t i v i t y " i s  taken as s i g n s f o r  a f t e r t h i n g s , f o r i t i s i n those same " t h i n g s " t h a t men  things,  can d i s c o v e r  the  s o - c a l l e d "laws" of n a t u r e which enable them to c o n t r o l f o r c e s t h a t once appeared so m y s t e r i o u s and of the w o r l d  (men  awesome.  included)  In t h i s s e p a r a t i o n ,  and  them taken as means to a new  end:  "philosophy"  thought:  i n t o " i d e a l i s m , " both of  "knowledge" as a completed s t a t e of  understanding.  In i t s s i m p l e s t  "knowledge" was  an i l l u s i o n r i g h t from the b e g i n n i n g .  of the p e r i o d , " he  substances  d i s a p p e a r e d i n t o a b s t r a c t forms of  "science" into "materialism"  confreres  the  form, so W i l l i a m s  argues, t h i s concept of "Bacon and  his  writes,  had a g r e a t work to do. Science had to be b u i l t up. The l u r e of a s o l u t i o n o f l i f e c a r r i e d them forward g i v i n g them the b e l i e f t h a t to know e v e r y t h i n g was the end of knowledge, the same f a l s i t y t h a t debauches the mind of a c o l l e g e boy to t h i s day. I t had a p e r f e c t j u s t i c e as an i n c e n t i v e to work and has worked so w o n d e r f u l l y . (EK, 68) If  the f i r s t  quarter  o f the 20th c e n t u r y  i s any  i n d i c a t i o n , i t becomes  69  apparent  to W i l l i a m s t h a t the h a b i t of mind g i v i n g b i r t h to s c i e n c e  triumphed.  But  has  l i k e a l l o t h e r " t r u t h s " which e v e n t u a l l y r e v e a l t h e i r  the f i c t i o n of s c i e n c e i s  limits,  now  so worn, so v i o l e n t l y wrong t h a t i t s v i c i o u s n e s s has become s u r e l y the most d i s t o r t i n g , o b s e s s i v e ghost of the w o r l d . I t i s the most v i o l e n t l i e i n e x i s t e n c e to the e x t e n t t h a t i t has been the most p o w e r f u l f o r c e i n c i t i n g men to l a b o r f o r hundreds of y e a r s . Now i t must be k i l l e d . I t must be k i l l e d by showing i t f a l s e . T h i s i s why S c i e n c e — f o r t h a t i s what " s c i e n c e " has come to mean, the f i c t i o n i t s e l f , and P h i l o s o p h y — f o r i t i s the same there — must be branded as l i e . (EK, 68-69) A lie,  because somewhere i n t h i s triumph,  " s p e a k i n g a n i m a l " got l o s t , and  Shakespeare's sense o f man  as a  the s o l i d i t y of h i s use o f words as w e l l .  As a w r i t e r , Shakespeare r e s i s t e d the l u r e of a b s t r a c t i o n s and h e l d to the d e n s i t y of l i v e  experience:  . . . never a p h i l o s o p h e r i n any of Shakespeare's p i e c e s — o n l y men and women of a c t i o n — bent by what you w i l l — something more s o l i d which was t h e r e b e f o r e , somet h i n g he c o u l d not escape, opaque, u n s c i e n t i f i c , i n an awakening s c i e n t i f i c e r a , which Bacon was f i r s t i n awakening. Shakespeare had n o t h i n g but p e o p l e to oppose to t h a t , a s o l i d rock he c o u l d not break — just arrange, rearrange. He c o u l d not get by them. There he s t u c k and spun. (EK, 111-112)  Some of W i l l i a m s ' comments on Shakespeare found Descent o f W i n t e r "  t h e i r way  into  "The  ( f i r s t p u b l i s h e d i n Pound's E x i l e , Autumn, 1928), but  h i s r e a d i n g of t h i s genius of the E n g l i s h language n e v e r t h e l e s s remains i n a s t a t e of "notes and  fragments,"  quick takes.  What i s important  for  t h i s study, however, i s the manner i n which he reads Shakespeare i n t o modernist  movement i n w r i t i n g .  Not  the  t h a t "the modern" s h o u l d , o r i s  " t r y i n g or w i s h i n g or dreaming to b r i n g back Shakespeare" (EK, t h a t k i n d of n o s t a l g i c lament f o r t h i n g s p a s t . W i l l i a m s says, " h i s o p a c i t y i s growing f a m i l i a r "  112) , not  "But h i s s o l i d i t y , " (EK,  112).  70  In the s e c t i o n o f The Embodiment of Knowledge immediately f o l l o w i n g the first  d i s c u s s i o n o f Shakespeare as a w r i t e r —  words" (EK, 11) —  "Shakespeare's work i s a l l  W i l l i a m s a f f i r m s the e x p e r i m e n t a l w r i t i n g of S t e i n and  J o y c e , two m o d e r n i s t w r i t e r s who  have made the s h i f t back i n t o a sense  of language as a c t u a l , the matter o f w r i t i n g .  By b r e a k i n g through the  " f a l s e r e l i a n c e on emotion and i d e a " (EK, 18) and r e t u r n i n g to the o b j e c t i v i t y o f words, they a r e a t t e m p t i n g to overcome the same c l e a v a g e between words and t h i n g s t h a t e n t e r s Shakespeare's work.  After  stating  t h a t "Language i s the key to the mind's escape from bondage to the p a s t " (EK, 19), W i l l i a m s o u t l i n e s h i s own "function" engages  sense o f the " p r o v i n c e " (EK, 19) and  (EK, 20) o f w r i t i n g i n h i s contemporary w o r l d .  In w r i t i n g  that  language, "words and t h e i r c o n f i g u r a t i o n s a r e r e a l and a l l i d e a s  and f a c t s w i t h which they d e a l are secondary" (EK, 19-20).  And because o f  t h i s , such w r i t i n g i s the complement o f a l l o t h e r realms o f the i n t e l l i g e n c e which use language as secondary t o the r e a l i t y o f t h e i r own m a t e r i a l s — such as s c i e n c e , p h i l o s o p h y , h i s t o r y , r e l i g i o n , the l e g i s l a t i v e f i e l d . (EK, 20) W i l l i a m s , i n o t h e r words, does not oppose w r i t i n g to o t h e r f i e l d s o f i n t e l l i g e n c e , but s e p a r a t e s i t out as t h a t "realm o f the i n t e l l i g e n c e " i n which language i s e x p l o r e d on i t s own  terms.  And s i n c e e x p e r i e n c e i s  i n e x t r i c a b l y bound t o the p l a y of words, the modernist w r i t i n g W i l l i a m s has i n mind f u n c t i o n s to " r e - e n k i n d l e language, to break i t away from i t s enforcements, i t s p r o s t i t u t i o n s under a l l o t h e r c a t e g o r i e s " (EK, 20).  In  v e r y c r u c i a l ways, what we know of the p a s t i s a language c o n s t r u c t , a completed s t a t e o f u n d e r s t a n d i n g f r o z e n i n t o the grammar and s y n t a x of a world t h a t no l o n g e r e x i s t s .  By b r e a k i n g up the language of t h a t  construct,  71  modernist w r i t e r s thus f r e e "the words themselves" t o a p r e s e n t where they can be r e - d i s c o v e r e d i n t h e i r newness. language  as r e a l and employing  So W i l l i a m s c o n c l u d e s , "By t a k i n g  i t w i t h a f u l l b r e a d t h and sweep, l e t t e r s  f r e e s i t from encroachments and makes i t o p e r a t i v e a g a i n " (EK, 20). key word i s " o p e r a t i v e . "  I t i s i m p e r a t i v e t h a t now,  The  i n the 20th c e n t u r y ,  w r i t e r s be drawn i n t o the hunt f o r a form o f w r i t i n g t h a t r e v e a l s the immediacy o f t h e i r time, the one  T h i s l o y a l t y toward in  they  live.  the p r e s e n t , however, can cause i n t e n s e r e s i s t a n c e s  those w r i t e r s and r e a d e r s who  would p r e f e r to r e l y on p a s t forms because  they are more p r e d i c t a b l e , l e s s t h r e a t e n i n g , more c o m f o r t i n g . of  A great deal  what concerns W i l l i a m s deeply s t r i k e s to the core o f t h i s c e n t r a l drama,  the modernist  b a t t l e f o r the New  as a g a i n s t the dominance o f the O l d .  Taken  t o g e t h e r , a l l the essays c o l l e c t e d i n S e l e c t e d Essays are exemplary i n t h i s sense, and no doubt W i l l i a m s had some such i n t e n t i o n i n mind i n the 50's when he gathered them t o g e t h e r f o r r e - p u b l i c a t i o n .  early  S e l e c t e d Essays  begins w i t h the " P r o l o g u e " to Kora i n H e l l , h i s f i r s t major defense o f modernism, and ends w i t h "On measure — r e - a f f i r m a t i o n o f the modernist which may  Statement f o r C i d Corman," a  poet's d e s i r e to d i s c o v e r "a new  be o r d e r e d our poems as w e l l as our l i v e s "  (SE,  measure by  340).  "A P o i n t f o r American C r i t i c i s m " appears mid-stream, f i r s t p u b l i s h e d in  t r a n s i t i o n i n 1929,  around  the same time as The Embodiment o f Knowledge 2  was  w r i t t e n and A N o v e l e t t e and Other Prose compiled.  By the end o f the  20's, over t e n y e a r s a f t e r w r i t i n g Kora i n H e l l , modernism was l e a s t i n W i l l i a m s ' eyes, not a c c e p t e d as an a c t u a l i t y . 3 essay "The  Strange Case o f James J o y c e , "  still,  at  Rebecca West's  the focus of>his* a t t e n t i o n i n  "A Point-for-. American C r i t i c i s m , . " confIrmed-his-growing. sense t h a t  no  72  a u t h e n t i c American  form o f w r i t i n g had y e t become p u b l i c .  handle i t h e r e , " he had w r i t t e n to Pound i n March, 1930, own  failure  "No  one  will  admitting h i s  to f i n d a p u b l i s h e r f o r A N o v e l e t t e and Other P r o s e .  He i s  e q u a l l y angered because West's c r i t i c i s m o f Joyce was  p u b l i s h e d i n America,  f u r t h e r i n d i c a t i o n t h a t Americans  upon f o r e i g n  a u t h o r i t y to t e l l contemporary  them how  literature.  are s t i l l  dependent  to judge what i s , and what i s not, r e l e v a n t i n W i l l i a m s thus w r i t e s "a p o i n t " f o r American  c r i t i c i s m and argues the need f o r r e a d e r s i n America to become more c o n s c i o u s o f the f a c t t h a t modern w r i t i n g i s s u e s from the c o n d i t i o n o f t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e ; and t h a t Americans, ity,  i f they w i l l a c t on i t , to i n t e r p r e t the work o f such a w r i t e r as  Joyce from t h e i r own  perspective.  P o s s i b l y "A P o i n t f o r American s i n g l e d out f o r s p e c i a l a t t e n t i o n — review — the  C r i t i c i s m " does not deserve t o be i t i s , a f t e r a l l , o n l y a review o f a  except t h a t i t dramatizes so c l e a r l y and so w e l l the n a t u r e of  c o n s t a n t s t r u g g l e , i n W i l l i a m s ' work, out of which such a t h i n g as  "modernism" takes shape. "We  f o r t h i s r e a s o n , have the opportun-  J u s t as the D a d a i s t s and S u r r e a l i s t s i n France  must i m i t a t e the m o t i v a t i o n and shun the r e s u l t " —  must d i s c o v e r a form o f w r i t i n g p a r t i c u l a r t o t h e i r own c r i t i c i s m can a c t as a p o s i t i v e f o r c e i n t h i s endeavor. demands the e f f o r t of m o d e r n i s t r e a d e r s . "Joyce vs West" an American  American needs.  writers And  Modernist w r i t i n g  So i t i s t h a t i n the case o f  form of c r i t i c i s m c o u l d have o f f e r e d a more  a c c u r a t e e v a l u a t i o n o f the l a r g e r c o n t e x t o f Joyce's work.  What then might  t h i s form be f o r the "American" r e a d e r t h a t W i l l i a m s  becomes on the o c c a s i o n o f t h i s b r i e f essay?  We  notice, f i r s t  t h a t he does not choose to answer West i n the most obvious way,  of a l l , through a  —  73  p o i n t by p o i n t r e b u t t a l o f her r e a d i n g o f J o y c e . his  argument n e g a t i v e l y , moves behind  the content of West's remarks back to  the b a s i c assumptions she h o l d s as a " c r i t i c . " terms of her argument, he can l i f t "strange case" — writing — and  We  By so d e - c o n s t r u c t i n g the  her r e a d e r l y m i s g i v i n g s —  i n t o the context of the h i s t o r i c  a g a i n , the b a t t l e between the p a s t  the p r e s e n t  I n s t e a d , he c o n s t r u c t s  Joyce as a  c o n d i t i o n of  modernist  ("West" defends what i s " o l d " )  ("Joyce" m a n i f e s t s the b i r t h of the "new").  are t o l d t h a t Rebecca West, on the one hand, acknowledges  Joyce's  " g e n i u s , " o n l y then to expose h i s s o - c a l l e d d e f e c t s , one o f them h i s l a c k of  "taste."  apparent to  What gets W i l l i a m s i s the smugness behind  s e c u r i t y of i t ,  which he t r a n s l a t e s as the o t h e r s i d e of a f a i l u r e  d e a l w i t h an o b j e c t of a t t e n t i o n —  i . e . Joyce's w r i t i n g —  not conform to p r e - e s t a b l i s h e d l i t e r a r y s t a n d a r d s . c r i t i c i s m i s thus r e a l l y a defense. and  she uses the whole weighted  a  sensibilities,  a u t h o r i t y of her a e s t h e t i c p e r s p e c t i v e to  f i n a l l y u n s u c c e s s f u l because he f a i l s  beyond "'the t h r e s h o l d t h a t d i v i d e s l i f e d e c o n s t r u c t i o n , such a statement  (SE, 81) as h i s prose may  to l i f t  his  be,  '"compulsions'"  from a r t ' " (SE, 81).  In W i l l i a m s '  b e t r a y s the fundamental bankruptcy  a e s t h e t i c frame of r e f e r e n c e t h a t c o n s t i t u t e s i t s e l f s e p a r a t i o n of " a r t " from l i f e .  t h a t does  What i s outwardly  J o y c e . o f f e n d s West's  demonstrate t h a t Joyce's work, as " b e a u t i f u l " is  the judgment, the  of an  on the h i e r a r c h i c  T h i s i s the same " A r t " ( c a p i t a l i z e d ) t h a t  the D a d a i s t s s i n g l e d out f o r a t t a c k y e a r s b e f o r e .  Joyce, on the o t h e r hand,  r e f u s e s to pander t o t h i s s e p a r a t i o n , and h i s work i s s i g n i f i c a n t f o r t h a t very f a c t .  Words t o him are not used as some k i n d of l a d d e r to t r a n s p o r t  the r e a d e r out of the world  to some transcendent  L i k e Shakespeare, he i s , f i r s t understood?"  (SE, 86).  and  foremost,  "somewhere e l s e " (SE, 87).  a w r i t e r : " W i l l t h i s never  be  74  W i l l i a m s would have enjoyed M a r c e l Duchamp's answer, i n an to  the q u e s t i o n , "What i s t a s t e f o r you?"  "A h a b i t .  interview,  The r e p e t i t i o n of  4 something  already accepted."  an a e s t h e t i c measuring of  In t h i s sense, " t a s t e " i s a f i x e d  response,  r o d determined by an a l r e a d y g i v e n s t a n d a r d , a s e t  s o c i a l o r c u l t u r a l norms a g a i n s t which, and o n l y a g a i n s t which, a t h i n g  i s judged as " b e a u t i f u l " or n o t . As a " r e p e t i t i o n o f something  T h i s i s both i t s l i m i t  and i t s danger.  a l r e a d y a c c e p t e d , " i t becomes one more  example of a form t h a t c u t s o f f the crab's f e e l e r s to make those f e e l e r s fit  i n t o a box.  The r e s u l t i n g c o n s t r i c t i o n p r e v e n t s the mind  West's, a c c o r d i n g to W i l l i a m s ) from e x p e r i e n c i n g something Of c o u r s e , the i s s u e of " t a s t e " i n i t s e l f Williams' attack.  Rather, the dogmatic  (Rebecca  altogether  new.  i s not the s o l e p o i n t o f  r e l i a n c e upon i t as a  critical  t o o l d i s g u i s e s what stands behind i t , " B r i t i s h c r i t i c a l orthodoxy  (R.W. i t s  spokesman)" (SE, 84), a frame o f r e f e r e n c e t h a t a s s e r t s i t s power by r e f u s i n g to a c c e p t what does not conform t o i t s f i x e d s t a n d a r d s . the  r e a l reason why  defects  i t cannot  (or w i l l not) understand Joyce's  This i s  so-called  — Joyce does o f f e n d i n t a s t e . Joyce i s s e n t i m e n t a l i n h i s handling of h i s m a t e r i a l . He does deform h i s drawing and a l l o w d e f e c t i v e c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n s to creep i n (SE, 84)  —  as i n c o n s e q u e n t i a l i n the face of the much more p r e s s i n g  (and obvious, t o  W i l l i a m s ) f a c t t h a t he i s b r e a k i n g away from a e s t h e t i c forms become o b s o l e t e . i s the immediate  "British critical  that have  orthodoxy" i s one such form.  This,  then,  t h i n g : "Joyce has broken through and drags h i s d e f e c t s  w i t h him, a t h i n g E n g l i s h c r i t i c i s m cannot t o l e r a t e " (SE, 85).  W i l l i a m s says  t h a t West cannot acknowledge t h i s c o m p l e x i t y w i t h o u t s a c r i f i c i n g her p r e determined e x p e c t a t i o n s : She cannot say t h a t on the b a s i s of Joyce's e f f o r t ,  the  75  d e f e c t i s a consequence of the genius which, to g a i n way, has superseded the r e s t r i c t i o n s o f the orthodox f i e l d . She cannot say t h a t i t i s the break t h a t has r e l e a s e d the genius — and t h a t the d e f e c t s are s t i g m a t a o f the break. She cannot l i n k the two as an i n d i s s o l u b l e whole •— but she must put d e f e c t to the r i g h t , genius t o the l e f t , B r i t i s h c r i t i c i s m i n the c e n t e r , where i t i s w h o l l y f o r c e d ; a thorough i m p o s i t i o n . (SE, 84) Meanwhile, Joyce —  "the l e a p o f a new  force"  (SE, 85) —  s l i p s through her  fingers: Forward i s the new. I t w i l l not be blamed. I t w i l l not f o r c e i t s e l f i n t o what amounts to p a r a l y z i n g r e s t r i c t i o n s . I t cannot be c o r r e c t . I t hasn't time. I t has t h a t which i s beyond measurement, which r e n d e r s -measurement a f a l s i f i c a t i o n , s i n c e .the energy i s showing i t s e l f as r e c r u d e s cent, the measurement b e i n g the a f t e r m a t h o f each new o u t b u r s t . (SE, 85)  "And of the  t h i s , " so W i l l i a m s a s s e r t s a l i t t l e  f u r t h e r on, " i s the o p p o r t u n i t y  America! to see l a r g e , l a r g e r than England can" (SE, 86). need to r e l y on B r i t i s h t r a d i t i o n  c r i t i c a l orthodoxy" q u e s t i o n i t s own c r i t i c i s m can a c c e p t Joyce as a new  Severed from  (which i s i t s e l f , would  the  p a s t , a form of l o c a l i s m )  "British  American  f o r c e "beyond measurement."  They both  share the same c o n s t i t u t i n g break from orthodoxy and the s t a t e o f newness t h a t i s s u e s from t h i s break. There i s an American c r i t i c i s m t h a t a p p l i e s to American l i t e r a t u r e — a l l too unformed to speak o f p o s i t i v e l y . T h i s American t h i n g i t i s t h a t would b e t t e r f i t the I r i s h o f Joyce. (SE, 87) T h i s "unformed" but "American  t h i n g " has not y e t blossomed, but t h i s  of  r e s t l e s s p o s s i b i l i t y i s i t s p r e c i s e advantage.  to  defend, i t does not have t o deny what does not conform.  state  With no f i x e d standards  W i l l i a m s ' argument i s thus a push toward a more a u t h e n t i c  Implicit i n critical  a p p r a i s a l on the p a r t of American r e a d e r s o f modernist w r i t i n g such as Joyce's.  I t s apparent absence of " o r d e r " i s the s i g n of a new  kind of  76  readership.  W i l l i a m s i s perhaps h i n t i n g t h a t behind  '.'taste," which c o n s t i t u t e s i t s e l f "low"  the i d e a o f  on the d i v i s i o n between a " h i g h " and  c u l t u r e , t h e r e i s t h a t more common, more democratic o r i g i n a l l y , to t e s t by to to  literary a  sense of " t a s t e "  —  touching;  t e s t the f l a v o u r o f b y . p u t t i n g a l i t t l e i n one's mouth; r e c e i v e the s e n s a t i o n o f , as f o r the f i r s t time.  In America, " t a s t e " can then become an a c t of f e e l i n g out something something o t h e r t h a t i s o t h e r because as yet unknown.  American  new,  readers  can " t e s t " such w r i t i n g as J o y c e ' s , not by j u d g i n g i t a c c o r d i n g to e x t e r n a l l y imposed standards the f i r s t  It  of measurement, but by making c o n t a c t w i t h i t , "as f o r  time."  i s from t h i s p e r s p e c t i v e t h a t W i l l i a m s comes to conclude  reader-West h i d e s behind And  a critical  of  framework c o n d i t i o n e d by B r i t i s h norms.  by r e f u s i n g to e n t e r the dynamics o f "the words themselves"  w r i t i n g , not s u r p r i s i n g l y , she thought  t h a t the  transposes  i n Joyce's  the w r i t i n g over i n t o c a t e g o r i e s  which i t s v e r y t e x t u r e undermines.  As W i l l i a m s w r i t e s ,  She speaks of t r a n s c e n d e n t a l t o s h , of Freud, of Beethoven's F i f t h Symphony, of a n y t h i n g t h a t comes i n t o her head, but she has not y e t l e a r n e d — though she p r o f e s s e s to know the d i f f e r e n c e between a r t and l i f e — the s e n t i m e n t a l and the n o n - s e n t i m e n t a l — t h a t w r i t i n g i s made of words. And t h a t i n j u s t t h i s e s s e n t i a l Joyce i s making a t e c h n i c a l advance which she i s a f r a i d to acknowledge — that i s a c t u a l l y c u t t i n g away a l l England from under h e r . (SE, 88) What West r e f u s e s to r e c o g n i z e i s the " t e c h n i c a l advance" p a r t and p a r c e l of  Joyce's  writing: Joyce maims words. Why? Because meanings have been d u l l e d , then l o s t , then p e r v e r t e d by t h e i r c o n n o t a t i o n s (which have grown over them) u n t i l t h e i r e f f e c t on the mind i s no l o n g e r what i t was when they were f r e s h , but grows r o t t e n as p o i — though we may get to l i k e poi., (SE, 89-90)  That  i s , i f we  get used to i t s t a s t e .  And  how  e l s e to get used to p o i but  77  by e a t i n g i t ?  T h i s i s , of c o u r s e , a f o o l ' s language, but i t i s the same  k i n d o f language W i l l i a m s t h i n k s Rebecca West judges w i t h o u t  hearing.  From  a p o s i t i o n o u t s i d e t h i s maiming of words, and p r e d i c t a b l y , to West's e a r s , Joyce  f i n a l l y does become h i m s e l f a f o o l , the Shakespearean f o o l r e t u r n i n g  i n I r i s h garb.  But r i g h t h e r e , once a g a i n , W i l l i a m s moves i n s w i f t l y  the p o s i t i o n of the f o o l and  from  t u r n s her p e r c e p t i o n u p s i d e down:  T r u l y her c o n c e p t i o n of the Shakespearean f o o l , to whom she l i k e n s Joyce's mental p r o c e s s e s , i s c l o a c a l i f anyt h i n g c o u l d be so, w i t h h i s j a p e s and a n t i c s which so d i s t r e s s her thought, i n t h a t t r a n s c e n d e n t a l dream i n which the s p i r i t i s triumphant — somewhere e l s e . Whereas here i s the o n l y p l a c e where we know the s p i r i t to e x i s t a t a l l , b e f o u l e d as i t i s by l i e s . Joyce she sees as a ' f o o l ' d r a g g i n g down the g r e a t and the good to h i s own f o u l l e v e l , making the h i g h s p i r i t 'prove' i t s e a r t h y baseness by l o w e r i n g i t s e l f to laugh a t low t r u t h . (SE, 87) In W i l l i a m s ' own  re-interpretation,  . . . the t r u e s i g n i f i c a n c e of the f o o l i s to c o n s o l i d a t e l i f e , to i n s i s t on i t s lowness, to k n i t i t up, to c o r r e c t a c e r t a i n f a t u o u s n e s s i n the r o u n d - t a b l e c i r c l e . L i f e i s not to run o f f i n t o dream but to remain one, from low to h i g h . I f you c a r e to go so f a r , the f o o l i s the p r e m o n i t i o n of the R u s s i a n R e v o l u t i o n , to modern r e v o l u t i o n s i n thought. (SE, 88) And  he c l a r i f i e s  further:  L e a r ' s f o o l . . . i s f a r from what R.W. p a i n t s h i s genus t o be, but i s f u l l o f compassion. J o y c e , where he stoops low, has