UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

William Carlos Williams and the dance Field, Roger Michael 1971

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Item Metadata


831-UBC_1971_A8 F54.pdf [ 4.91MB ]
JSON: 831-1.0102167.json
JSON-LD: 831-1.0102167-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 831-1.0102167-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 831-1.0102167-rdf.json
Turtle: 831-1.0102167-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 831-1.0102167-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 831-1.0102167-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AND THE DANCE  ROGER MICHAEL FIELD B.A., D a l h o u s i e U n i v e r s i t y ,  1965  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS  i n the Department of ENGLISH  We a c c e p t t h i s t h e s i s as conforming required  t o .the  standard  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA June, 1971  In p r e s e n t i n g an the  thesis  advanced degree at Library  I further for  this  shall  his  of  this  written  fulfilment of  University  of  make i t f r e e l y  agree t h a t permission  scholarly  by  the  in p a r t i a l  p u r p o s e s may  representatives. thesis  be  available  granted  gain  of  The U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h V a n c o u v e r 8, C a n a d a  /4  JUMI  by  the  It i s understood  for financial  Columbia  /iff  for  for extensive  permission.  Department  British  shall  requirements  Columbia,  Head o f my  be  I agree  r e f e r e n c e and copying of  that  not  the  that  study.  this  thesis  Department  copying or  for  or  publication  allowed without  my  AESTRACT  The thesis i s , that the dance, as metaphor and as ordering function, is central to an understanding of William Carlos Williams' poetry and of his activity as poet. The f i r s t chapter, which is a ground for what follows, "begins with a close examination of "The Rose" from Spring and A l l as a demonstration of some of Williams' basic principles concerning the act of making the poem. My emphasis i s on what one can observe happening in the poem i t s e l f , the poem as enactment or dance.  I then proceed to examine the  prose passages from Spring and 'All as statement of those principles, in order to establish the meaning of some terms, imitation, engagement, imagination, as Williams uses them "both as theory in the prose descriptions and as actuality in the poems. The second chapter deals with the notion of dance as alternative to description, the action or enactment in a poem, which Williams calls imitation.  I attempt to show what  dance i s , the metaphor of i t , and how i t might manifest i t self in (as) language, that is to say, the energy of the poem as dance.  Then, in the light of several poems included  in the text of the chapter, I discuss imitation in terms of composition and invention, what Williams considers the basic activities of the poet in the making of a poem.  The t h i r d chapter d e a l s w i t h t h e a c t o f engagement a s dance, t o engage poem.  i n an a c t i v i t y , making l o v e or w r i t i n g a  I attempt t o show, "by r e f e r e n c e t o s e v e r a l o f W i l l i a m s '  s h o r t s t o r i e s and t o In t h e American G r a i n , as w e l l a s t o the poems, some o f t h e k i n d s o f p e r c e p t i o n s and awareness t h a t a r e c h a r a c t e r i s t i c o f t h i s k i n d o f engagement, and how they shape t h e poem; and, i n t h e end, t o come t o an u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f what W i l l i a m s means by p e n e t r a t i o n . In t h e f o u r t h c h a p t e r , measure a s dance, I examine  some  o f W i l l i a m s ' i d e a s and p r a c t i c e i n t h e rhythm and form o f the poem, t o show hovr measure i s t h e shape t h e dance and how W i l l i a m s r e s o l v e d  assumes,  some o f h i s own d i f f i c u l t i e s c o n -  c e r n i n g t h e problem o f measure.  And t h e chapter c o n c l u d e s  w i t h a r e s t a t e m e n t o f , and an i n s i s t e n c e upon, t h e i m p o r t ance o f t h e metaphor  o f dance.  My purpose has not been t o attempt a h i s t o r i c  analysis  or e v a l u a t i o n o f W i l l i a m s as c r i t i c and t h e o r i s t , o r as poet - though*the f a c t o f t h e t h e s i s does imply c e r t a i n judgements o f v a l u e , and t h e t e x t o f i t i s , t o some degree, analytical —  but t o demonstrate and e l u c i d a t e , by making  the dance a b a s i s f o r my d i s c u s s i o n s , some o f W i l l i a m s ' p r i m a r y concerns a s p o e t .  My emphasis, then, has n o t been  on the views and t h e o r i e s o f other c r i t i c s ,  not on c h r o n o -  l o g i c a l developments i n t h e poems themselves, but on t h e f a c t s o f t h e dance, immediate and a c t u a l .  page  Chapter I "THE ROSE" fflD THE PROSE FROM SPRING AND ALL....  1  Chapter I I THE DANCE AS IMITATION  Chapter I I I THE DANCE AS ENGAGEMENT  35  72  Chapter IV THE DANCE AS MEASURE  BIBLIOGRAPHY  99  115  "THE  ROSE" AND THE PROSE FROM SPRING AND ALL  S p r i n g and A l l was p u b l i s h e d i n 1923." W r i t e a Poem W i l l i a m s  I n I Wanted t o  d e s c r i b e s i t as "poems i n t e r s p e r s e d  w i t h p r o s e , t h e same i d e a as I m p r o v i s a t i o n s " ,  and says t h a t :  The prose i s a m i x t u r e o f p h i l o s o p h y and nonsense. I t made sense t o me, a t l e a s t t o my d i s t u r b e d m i n d — b e c a u s e i t was d i s t u r b e d a t t h a t t i m e — but I doubt i f i t made sense t o anyone e l s e . But t h e poems were kept p u r e — n o t y p o g r a p h i c a l t r i c k s when they a p p e a r — s e t o f f from t h e p r o s e . 2  The  prose does make sense as a statement o f some o f h i s d e s -  i r e s and i n t e n t i o n s , t h e poems as poems — the b e s t o f W i l l i a m s ' e a r l i e r ones —  some o f them among  and as demonstrations  of some o f t h e t h e o r y i n t h e p r o s e . L i n d a Wagner c a l l s S p r i n g and A l l "one 6f t h e most uneven o f W i l l i a m s ' books, r e p r e s e n t i n g as i t does t h i s p e r i o d  3 of t r a n s i t i o n . "  The t r a n s i t i o n  she sees i s , i n g e n e r a l  terms,  from t h e work t h a t was i n f l u e n c e d by Pound and t h e Imagist D i j o n , France: h e r e a f t e r as SA.  Contact  P u b l i s h i n g Company.  Abbreviated  I Wanted t o Write a Poem, e d i t e d by E d i t h B e a l Beacon P r e s s , 1958), 36-37.  (Boston:  The Poems o f W i l l i a m C a r l o s W i l l i a m s ( M i d d l e i o v n , Conne c t i c u t : Wesleyan U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1964), 15.  movement and that which was termed "Objectivist" —  the poem  of the object, objectively treated; the intervening period was a concern with, among other things, the possibilities k  of Surrealism in his writing.  There are in Spring and A l l  many instances of devices characteristic of Surrealist work, such as the juxtaposition of disparate images, "Lights / speckle / E l Greco / lakes / in renaissance / twilight / with triphammers" (SA, 56),^ as well as, in the prose sections, such "typographical tricks" as the misnumbering of chapters and eccentricity of punctuation in a travesty of the strict academic style. Bue the sense of i t comes through.  Williams did not f o l -  low the Surrealists' example very far because he was concerned at the same time that people should understand what he was saying.  He could not, as he saw some avant garde writers  doing, separate the word from i t s referential meaning, "as U  See Bram Dijkstra's The Hieroglyphics of a New Speech: Cubism, Stieglitz, and the Early Poetry of William Carlos Williams (Princeton University Press, 19&9). As the t i t l e indicates Dijkstra's concern is with the influence of visual, as opposed to literary, art on Williams' early development as a writer. The Book's value lies in i t s exploration of the connections between the Cubist and Surrealist painters, Alfred Stieglitz as both photographer and owner of an art gallery, and Williams as poet (and would-be painter), and in the close examination of Williams' early poetry, especially that of Spring and A l l . •'"The Agonized Spires", The Collected Earlier Poems of William Carlos Williams (Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1951), 262. Abbreviated hereafter as CEP.  with certain of the modern Russians [who] would use unoriented sounds in place of conventional words."  (SA, 9 2 ) .  He wanted  to break through conventional attitudes toward writing in the way the Cubists had done i t with painting, to open up new possibilities of expression, but i t must be done by putting the energy into the word i t s e l f , with i t s meaning, to overcome the strictures of convention.  As he says in the last paragraph  of Spring and A l l : The word i s not liberated, therefore able to communicate release from the f i x i t i e s which destroy i t until i t is accurately tuned to the fact which giving i t reality, by i t s own reality establishes i t s own freedom from the necessity of a word, thus freeing i t and dynamizing i t at the same time. SA,  93.  The intention of this examination of Spring and A l l is to follow Williams' argument in the prose section, the product of his "disturbed mind", in order to see how he reached the above conclusion, as well as what that conclusion means, his own stance in a world of " - i s t s " and "-isms"; and to follow the process of one poem, the one numbered VII in the original text (SA, 30-32) and later t i t l e d "The Rose", as an exploration of the way i t works, and as a ground for what follows.  The poem comes f i r s t ; i t a l l leads to the dance.  The rose but each an edge, cementing  i s obsolete petal ends in the double facet the grooved  columns of air—The edge cuts without cutting meets—nothing—renews i t s e l f in metal or porcelain— whither? It ends— But i f i t ends the start i s begun so that to engage roses becomes a geometry— Sharper, neater, more cutting figures in majolica— the broken plate glazed with a rose Somewhere the sense makes copper roses steel roses— The rose carried weight of love but love i s at an end—of roses It i s at the edge of the petal that love waits Crisp, worked to defeat laboredness—fragile plucked, moist, half-raised cold, precise, touching What The place between the petal's edge and the From the petal's edge a line starts that being of steel infinitely fine, infinitely rigid penetrates the Milky Way without c o n t a c t — l i f t i n g from i t — n e i t h e r hanging nor pushing— The f r a g i l i t y of the flower unbruised penetrates space.  The f i r s t line, "The rose is obsolete", would seem to deny the possibility of a poem about roses; i t i s a discursive statement, a comment on a l l the repetitive poems which consistently f a i l to say anything new about roses.  In that sense, the  rose is_ obsolete, no longer a flower but a woman, a concept, an ideal, or whatever the poet wishes i t to be; unless—unless things the imagination feeds upon, the scent of the rose, g startle us anew. That i s , the rose i t s e l f , not the long history of poems about roses, is what concerns Williams, and us.  The opening  line i s a starting point, i t clears the way for the rose. From that start the poem moves: "but" — there is no stasis; "but each petal" — i t moves from the conceptual "rose" to a particular, a "petal"; but each petal ends i n " — the petal is not static but the direction of a movement, towards the line ending, towards the gap between this line and the next, an empty space on the page; "but each petal ends in / an edge". The verb "ends" has for i t s opposite "begins", and the petal begins where i t joins the base of the calyx in the bud, the place from which, protected by sepals, i t starts to grow. And i t ends there, at the limit of i t s growing, the  6  1  "Shadows", Pictures from Brueghel (New York: New Directions, 1962), p.152. Abbreviated as PB.  outer edge of the petal.  1  The shift i s from general or discur-  sive to particular: the connective " i s " in the f i r s t line gives way to "ends", a more v i t a l verb, in the second, and the abstract "rose" i s replaced by the specific "petal". By the use of the verb "ends" Williams suggests something of the8 growth process of the flower,  just as the line break after  "in" makes a pause, the eye moves to the beginning of the next line, "an edge", and in the pause registers the furthest extreme of the petal's growing, the egLge.  In this way the form  of the poem Imitates the form of the flower. At the edge another dimension begins. The a i r i s solid, "grooved / columns", or, i f not solid, i s tactile, composed of forces made concrete, like the line "infinitely fine, i n finitely / r i g i d " in the second to the last section of the poem. "The "double facet" suggests the hardness and sharpness of diamond, a finely wrought edge, "cementing", holding together at the crucial edge the forces.  What forces? They are  the limits that contain, like Blake's Reason, the energy; the 7  Cf. Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, where the Devil says: Energy i s the only l i f e and is from the Body, and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy." g Cf. J . H i l l i s Miller's discussion of the growth process in "The Young Sycamore", in his Introductory essay to William Carlos Williams: A Collection of C r i t i c a l Essays (Englewood C l i f f s , N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966), pp.1-14.  thing, the rose, exists within i t s limits, and space exists outside —  and at the limits there is antagonism, they cannot  both he in the same place, the rose occupies what used to be occupied by space.  So the definition of the rose is that  thing that used to be space and now i s not, i s a rose. It i s , perhaps, obdurate. The edge is fine, but, unlike the blade of a knife, there i s no test of i t s fineness, "cuts ..without cutting / meets—nothing—renews  / i t s e l f in metal or porcelain—".  There is nothing to meet at the edge, that tangible space always stays beyond the limits of the petal, but one can try another tack, "in metal or porcelain", i t may s t i l l be a petal.  "Whither?  It ends—".  Since there is no where to  go, nothing to meet, the edge i t s e l f becomes important, holds the poet's eye; a suggestion of that further dimension, what happens at the edge, something i s here that may lead to a rose. But i f i t ends the start is begun so that to engage roses becomes a geometry— It i s "to engage roses" —  "engage" comes from the French  engager, which i s a combination of en-, having a sense of movement i n , "bring into suchccondition", and gage, "pledge, thing deposited as security", as, for example, the glove,  c a l l e d a "gage" thrown down as a c h a l l e n g e t o f i g h t . word has a v a r i e t y of uses i n E n g l i s h , hut a l l are  The  concerned  w i t h the movement i n t o a r e l a t i o n s h i p , whether b e i n g engaged t o m a r r y , o r t o do a j o b , o r , attach",  as i n a r c h i t e c t u r e ,  or the m e c h a n i c a l a p p l i c a t i o n , t o  "to  fasten,  engage a gear or  cogwheel, or t h e m i l i t a r y sense of coming i n t o c o n f l i c t , c r o s s i n g swords. i s some s o r t  In a l l cases the r e s u l t  of .the  engagement  o f r e l a t i o n s h i p or c o n t a c t , between t h i n g s ,  or  p e o p l e , an involvement w i t h the o t h e r t h a t i s , i n a way, f o r m a l i z e d , made o f f i c i a l ,  or  explicit.  Engagement as c o n f l i c t , between a r m i e s , example, because happens.  is a useful  i t g i v e s a p h y s i c a l r e p r e s e n t a t i o n o f what  The engagement b e g i n s when the opposing t r o o p s  no l o n g e r i g n o r e each o t h e r ' s way w i t h each o t h e r .  presence  can  and must d e a l i n some  They maneuver f o r advantage,  every move  made i n r e l a t i o n t o a movement or p o s i t i o n of t h e opposing side,  i n p r e p a r a t i o n f o r t h e c l a s h , which i s the meeting of  the two f o r c e s , the o t h e r .  S i n c e they a r e ,  they must e i t h e r i s reached, touch  where the body o f one touches the body o f antagonistic,  c o n t i n u e the engagement u n t i l a r e s o l u t i o n  or withdraw.  w i t h one  u n l i k e the cogwheels,  But t h e key t o i t  is getting i n  another.  T h i s i s t h e sense of "engage" t h a t comes c l o s e s t W i l l i a m s ' meaning — the geometry o f e n g a g i n g i r o s e s  to  becomes  a problem i n l o g i s t i c s .  I t i s the geometry of a given s i t u a -  t i o n , one can use only what i s at hand.  So the shape of the  solution i s discovered i n the l i e of the land, and the geometry takes shape according to the p a r t i c u l a r s of the s i t u 9 ' ation.  In t h i s sense, then, the engagement of the rose i s  open, not bound by preconveived  structures, but free to follow  the progress of the patterned exchange, which i s a dance, as i n "Danse Pseudomacabre": Everything that varies a hair's breadth from another i s an i n v i t a t i o n to the dance. Either dance or a n n i h i l a t i o n . There can be only the dance or ONE.i^ And so"the start i s begun" —  to create a geometry of  perception, the poet's eye trying various directions of approach i n order to f i n d the rose, and hold i t : 9  Cf. Benjamin Lee Whorf, An American Indian Model of the Universe (International Journal of American L i n g u i s t i c s , XVI, 2): "Just as i t i s possibletto have any number of geometries other than the Euclidean which give an equally perfect account of space configurations, so i t i s possible to have descriptions of the u n i v e r s e , ' a l l equally v a l i d , that do not cont a i n our f a m i l i a r contrasts of time and space. The r e l a t i v i t y viewpoint of modern physics i s one such view, conceived i n mathematical terms...." •^Collected i n The Farmer's Daughters (New York: New Directions, 196l), p.210. This story was Williams' f i r s t to be published and so i s among his e a r l i e s t work i n the short story form; i t was published i n The L i t t l e Review, VII. 1 (May-June 1920) 46-1+9.  In the composition, the artist does exactly what every eye must do with l i f e , f i x the particular with the universality of his own personality—Taught by the largeness of his imagination to feel every form which he sees moving within himself, he must prove the truth of this by expression. SA, 27. The particular is the rose, but i t is not so easy to " f i x " i t — a butterfly can be held and examined by putting a needle through i t s head, but you have a dead butterfly to look at,  And the poet must "feel every form which he sees  moving within himself", which i s the shape and l i f e of the flower. lost.  For the "truth" of the rose is easily damaged or So the poet's attention fixes at the place where the  petal ends, at the edge; i t is not the centre of the rose, but i t is where the rose is defined most clearly.  In navi-  gational terminology, the petal's edge would be the fixed point from which to take one's bearings and calculate a position.  So the poet's sightings, the converging lines of  the fix, make up the geometry of perception, or engagement; and, when he has included a l l the angles, we presume that the rose w i l l be there, surrounded. The poem i s based on a collage by Juan Gris called 11  "Roses".  Dijkstra points out that, i n the collage, "the  roses are photographic, cut out of a flower catalogue per"'""'"Dijkstra gives an account of the poem and the collage in The Hieroglyphics of a Mew Speech, 173-176.'  haps, or from a poster, and l i t e r a l l y pasted into the compo12 sition."  In the making of collages images are juxtaposed  and surfaces overlapped; anything can he pasted (or painted) beside or on top of anything else. The whole collage then i s a context, and that new context may jar one's usual perception of the image; in fact, i t i s no longer the same image. So, a piece of grass, picked and dried, incorporated in a woven composition (context,from the Latin, contextus, CONtexere, to weave, so, to be woven with), exists in that particular warp and woof, an existence different from that i t enjoyed in the other f i e l d , the one i t grew in.  The rose of  the collage i s not the rose in the garden, or the rose before Gris cut i t out of the catalogue — a new context makes a new rose. In the prose passage directly preceding "The Rose" Williams says: But such a picture as that of Juan Gris, though I have not seen i t in color, i s important as marking more clearly than any I have seen what the modern trend i s : the attempt is being made to separate things of the imagination from l i f e , and obviously, by using the forms common to experience so as not to frighten the onlooker away but to invite him, The rose i s , etc. SA, 30. Ibid., 174.  The rose of the poem is then "a thing of the imagination", just as the collage i s . The poem i s not a copy of the collage, but an enactment of i t , and the invitation i t makes i s to an experience of the imagination, which i s a dance. In the collage i s the shape of a broken plate, the rose 13 "figured in majolica—".  The figuring of the rose, represent-  ing i t in a picture, i s an example of the separation Williams refers to above.  Like the stained glass window fallen out of 14  its frame and broken on the ground,  the rose on the broken  plate i s a new thing, separated from i t s ordinary existence by the imaginative perception of i t ; an edge has been bared, "sharper, neater, more cutting". And this edge i s the point of f i x , i t opens new possibilities. Somewhere the sense makes copper roses steel roses— This is a new angle in the geometry, the rose "worked to defeat / laboredness", in metal, the fineness of i t .  The  effect is that of drawing one more line, a different approach, to try to define some point.  In Euclidean geometry the inter-  13 See Dijkstra, f i g . XXI, for a black and white reproduction of the collage. 14 Prologue to Kora in Hell, Selected Essays of William Carlos Williams (New York: Random House, 1954), p.5 Selected Essays abbreviated as SE.  section of two lines i s enough to make that definition; but, in Cubism, as in some of our mundane perceptions, we often try many more perspectives. So the Cubists talked about showing an object from.all sides simultaneously, surrounding i t , with the arrows a l l directed in, toward the thing i t s e l f . Williams* "sense" then i s in part his understanding of what these painters, and, in this case, Juan Gris, were after in their work; i t is also that faculty that is trying to grasp, make "sense" of things, to come to an understanding of them — not to take the rose and f i t i t into a system of things, but to partake of i t s reality by creating i t again in the imagination.  Each break in the poem allows him to  shift and start again, move again, toward the rose. There is only one end stop in-the body of the poem as i t finally appears, in both CEP and Selected Poems, and that is at the end of the last line."'"'' Each of the previous sections ends in a silence, either a word hanging i n space, as "waits", or one reaching out somewhere, as "pushing—".  As  suggested above the poem's form i s imitative of the form of the flower. ends—".  The edge "meets—nothing—",  goes nowhere, " i t  And the nothing at the edge of the petal, what de-  fines i t , is a gap in the poem, a space on the page. The line movement i s hesitant, in that each section i s incom^ I n SA_ the last line i s "penetrates spaces" — no end stop.  plete, each push goes out to the edge, hangs there, and we return to start again. Williams refuses to l e t the perception be completed (a closed book), in the sense that he holds back from l e t ting the reader have the flower and be done with i t —  he  holds back simply that we might be had by the flower.  As he  wrote to Harriet Monroe in 1913: Now l i f e is above a l l things else at any moment subversive of l i f e as i t was the moment before—always new, irregular. Verse to be alive must have infused into i t something of the same order, some tincture of disestablishment, something in the nature of an impalpable revolution, an ethereal reversal, l e t me say. I am speaking of modern verse.... verse with perhaps nothing else in i t but l i f e — and, in another letter the same year: "In a sense, I must express myself, you're right, but always completely incomplete i f that means anything." (SL, 2 6 ) . The impulse of a lazy mind might be to accept anything, so long as i t resembles a rose, and the perception (engagement) is completed, no loose ends.  The Cubists insisted that  there was more to be seen and known. Not that the simple reproduction of an image might not be enough; rather that the conventions had become fixed, and the audience's perceptions (and anticipations) likewise. So the Cubist painters broke The Selected Letters of William Carlos Williams, edited by John C. Thirlwall (New York: McDowell, Obolensky, 1957), pp.23-24. Abbreviated as SL.  their pictures open —  objects were turned in upon themselves,  folded over, stretched round to show a l l sides at once; the air, the space surrounding, was shown to be a f i e l d of tensions and forces, having body; and the picture i t s e l f was shown to be, f i r s t of a l l , what i t always was: "a matter of pigments upon a piece of cloth stretched on a f r a m e . T h e effect was often to shock the viewer, but the intention was to do more, to open up possibilities of perception.  As Will-  iams says of Juan Gris' collage, i t s purpose is "not to frighten the onlooker but to invite him."  (SA, 30).  Williams is insistent in directing the attention, his own as well as the reader's, to focus on the rose.  The words  of the poem with their "tactile associations force us to consider the rose completely in terms of the concrete existence i t represents, rather than allowing us to give i t a l8 metaphorical, or otherwise literary 'significance'." Crisp, worked to defeat labor edness—fragile plucked, moist, half-raised cold, precise, touching The words are tactile, a l l denoting qualities of a rose, and including the possibility of roses in majolica, steel, or 17 The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams (NewYork: New Directions, 1967), p.380. Abbreviated as Au. See also Au, 240, for the story of Alanson Hartpence and "paint". D i j k s t r a , 174. l8  copper, as well as roses in early morning gardens or refrigerators.  Williams says later:  It i s the making of that step, to come over into the tactile qualities, the words themselves beyond the mere thought expressed that distinguishes the modern, or distinguished the modern of that time from the period before the turn of the century. And i t i s the reason why painting and the poem became so closely a l l i e d at that time. Au, 380. Then, although the words above are adjectives, and do describe the petals of the rose, they are more than just a collection of descriptive words; they have their own textures, they are themselves objects, like the petals, as well as meanings, and so build up, like layers of paint, the concrete reality of the rose, as i f in bas-relief.  But the last of  them, "touching", leads forward to the next section, to "What" and "The place between the petal's / edge and the". The touch i s not made, the lines hold back, hold the reader back; although the rose is concrete i t is also "fragile". What Williams (like Juan Gris) w i l l not allow his reader to do is to settle for a concept, a copy: "Very well. in search of 'the beautiful i l l u s i o n ' . " (SA, 3).  I am not There is  more to a rose than that (says he). So each new beginning, each section of the poem, is a new tack in the geometry. And each time the attention must shift.  In the Prologue to Kora in Hell he says:  The true value is that peculiarity which gives an object a character by i t s e l f . The associational or sentimental value is the false. Its imposition is due to lack of imagination, to an easy lateral sliding. The attention has been held too rigid on the one plane instead of following a more flexible, jagged resort. It is to loosen the attention, my attention since I occupy part of the f i e l d , that I write these improvisations. Here I clash with Wallace Stevens. SE, 11. With each shift in the poem the attention i s "loosened"; the effect is no different from that achieved by the Cubist painters.  This is the source of disagreement with Stevens;  in the letter that Williams includes in the Prologue Stevens writes: My idea is that in order to carry a thing to the extreme necessity to convey i t one has to stick to i t ; (...) Bit to fidget with points of view leads always to new beginnings and incessant new beginnings lead to s t e r i l i t y . SE, 12. For Williams the "easy lateral sliding" of the "lack of imagination" was a result of the fixed point of view: Minds like beds always made up. (more stony than a shore) unwilling or unable.^ for any single approach, held (stubbornly) for a length of time, becomes a convention of habit.  And Williams insists  that we "make i t new". "Paterson (New York: New Directions, 1963), p.13 Abbreviated as P.  While the attention is being loosened i t i s also being tightened; that i s , i f i t follows the movement of the poem, the shifts of approach w i l l have that loosening effect, but, for this to happen, i t must follow the poem, must be focussed, tightened down, directed by i t . The direction of the poem i s the avoidance of any path that does not lead to the rose; roses in majolica or steel do not shift the attention away as, say, Eliot's 'faultifoliate rose / Of death's twilight kingdom" does in The Hollow Men, but hold i t to the thing that is a rose, fixed. It is there, at the point of f i x , "at the edge of the / petal that love waits".  And i t i s from there "a line starts".  The lines in this section, the second to the last, move with a greater .assurance as the line moves out from the "petal's edge" and "penetrates / the Milky Way".  In mathematics a  line is the path of a point moving, having length but not breadth, and direction; i t is an illusion, for the sake of convenience, the concrete representation of a theoretical concept.  Similarly, the "line" of the poem is illusory, "in-  f i n i t e l y fine, infinitely / r i g i d " . But i t is"of steel"; that i s , i t is of the same temper as the "grooved / columns of a i r " , in terms applied to the Cubists, "the 'orthodox* O A  solidification of intangible spatial qualities". 20 . Dijkstra, 173.  At the  edge then, where the "line" begins, i s the spatial definition of the rose, i t s shape; and the "line" indicates the direction of a line of force — the force of the petal's fine edge, the force of the flower's fragility, the force of the poet's perception, inexorable. So that The f r a g i l i t y of the flower unbruised penetrates space. It is free — the lines move without hesitation, and the period makes i t f i n a l .  Here, at the end, the poem gains a  dimension, a shift into infinite space after the constrictions of the fix, and the rose blooms.  In a sense the move-  ment has reversed, in that the lines of the geometry always pointed inward, from outside, toward the rose.  And the rever-  sal i s just the movement outward, from the rose as centre, outward and through, "penetrates space."  This new dimension  is not a spatial one, as the shift from two- to three-dimensional, so much as i t i s a quality of the new existence of the rose — the rose started as nothing, "obsolete", and ends as a v i t a l presence.  So that the last section takes  the whole poem by the t a i l and turns i t inside out; each petal of the bloom, roughly corresponding to each section of the poem, each cutting edge, i s thus joined to make up the whole flower, and what holds i t together i s i t s "fragi-  lity".  At i t s edges i t i s non-dimensional, penetrant. It  exists in the imagination. That is the end of the engagement; Williams has, for the moment, overcome that one thing: "the virtual impossi-" '  :  b i l i t y of l i f t i n g to the imagination those things which l i e under the senses, close to the nose."  (SE, 11).  The question  that arises i s simply what does Williams mean by "the imagination".  He addresses the prose passages of Spring and  A l l to that question; that i s , to give a theoretical statement of the stance he takes in the whole book, poems and prose: "To whom am I addressed?  To the imagination." (SA, 3).  Not merely to state that position, but to explain i t , so that one could understand not only what the imagination was to Williams, but why that understanding was crucial to one's approach to poetry, in fact, to a l l works of art. "There i s a constant barrier between the reader and his consciousness of immediate contact with the world."  (SA,l).  That is the beginning of, and a key to, Williams' argument. Instead of providing, or provoking, access to that world of contact, he says, "Nearly a l l writing, up to the present, i f not a l l art, ... has been...a search for 'the beautiful i l l u sion'.  Very well.  sion ."  (SA, 3).  1  I am not i n search of 'the beautiful i l l u His interest, then as an a r t i s t , is empha-  t i c a l l y in "what [the reader] is at the exact moment that he i s , " in "this moment"; and he i s concerned with removing  that "constant barrier". city of Disorder":  As he says in the essay "The Simpli-  "So a l l things enter into the singleness  of the moment and the moment partakes of the diversity of a l l things."  (SE, 97). And so:  To refine, to clarify, to intensify that eternal moment in which we alone live there i s but a single force—the imagination. This i s i t s book. I myself invite you to read and see. In the imagination, we are from henceforth (so long as you read) locked in a fraternal embrace, the classic caress of author and reader. We are one. Whenever I say 'I* I mean also 'you . And so, together, as one, we shall begin. 1  SA, 3-4. The breakthrough into the moment, into a world of contact, could not be an absolute thing; the struggle might never be over for more than a_ moment — in a letter to Ralph Nash in 1954 Williams was s t i l l insisting: "a man must... fight his way to a world that breaks through to the actual." (SL, 323-324). For the actual world is simply that which i s in process around you a l l the time; the word means "of or pertaining to action", and i t comes from the Latin root verb ago, I act, the past participle of i t actus, simply the doing of a thing. Williams says in the Autobiography; "To imitate nature involves the verb to do." (Au, 24l). The actual world then i s one in which things move, do,act upon each other, the sense i s that of contact, being in touch  with things: " . . . l i f e becomes actual only when i t is identified with ourselves.  When we name i t , l i f e exists."  (SA, hi).  So, for Williams, the actual is that in which we are actually involved. It is that world in which we live that Williams wants to break through to in his poetry, and he is fighting against the whole idea that art is a " l i e " : What I put down w i l l have this value: an escape from crude symbolism, the annihilation of strained associations, complicated r i t u a l i s t i c forms designed to separate the work from 'reality'—(...) The work w i l l be in the realm of the imagination as plain as the sky i s to a fisherman— SA, '22. Ritual, or symbolism, that directs the attention to i t s e l f rather than to the 'reality' that gave rise to i t , that i s , its origin in experience, is what Williams objects to; i t s ' "associations" are "strained", instead of being grounded in the actuality of one's experience, as natural associations. A myth i s alive when the experience that gave' rise to i t i s comprehended, and, in this, case, comprehended should be taken to mean included in one's experience.  So, the  r i t u a l expression of the experience of the myth i s a reenactment of the original as i t actually happened: A r i t e cannot be performed unless i t s "origin" i s known, that i s , the myth that t e l l s how i t was per-  formed f o r the f i r s t time. the Na-khi shaman chants:  During the funeral service  "Now  we w i l l escort the deceased and again experience bitterness; We w i l l again dance and suppress the demons. I f i t i s not t o l d whence the dance originated One must not speak about i t . Unless one know the o r i g i n of the dance One cannot dance." 2  L  Or, put another way, blasphemy i s simply saying the name of the god when one does not know the r e a l i t y of that god. The separation Williams saw i n Juan G r i s ' collage, "to separate things of the imagination from l i f e " , was  necessary  to show that a work of the imagination has a r e a l i t y of i t s own,  that i t i s not " i l l u s i o n " : This [separation] was not necessary when the subject of a r t was not " r e a l i t y " but related to the "gods"—by force or otherwise. There was no need of the " i l l u s i o n " in such a case since there was none possible where a picture or a work represented simply the imaginative r e a l i t y which existed i n the mind of the onlooker. No special e f f o r t was necessary to cleave where the cleavage already existed. SA,  35  But the "cleavage" does not indicate that works of art are unrelated to ordinary experience; i n f a c t , f o r Williams, the opposite was true —  what he wanted was to break through  to a world of experience that was a l i v e , "as p l a i n as the  21  , Myth and R e a l i t y , Mircea Eliade (Harper  1968), p.IT.  Torchbooks),  sky i s to a fisherman—": So long as the sky i s recognized as an association is recognized in i t s function of accessory to vague words whose meaning i t is impossible to rediscover its value can be nothing but mathematical certain limits of gravity and density of air The farmer and the fisherman who read their own lives there have a practical corrective f o r — they rediscover or replace demoded meanings to the religious terms Among them, without expansion of imagination, there is the residual contact between l i f e and the imagination which i s essential to freedom The man of imagination who turns to art for release and fulfilment of his baby promises contends with the sky through layers of demoded words and shapes. Demoded, not because the essential v i t a l i t y which begot them i s laid waste—this cannot be so, a young man feels, since he feels i t in himself—but because meanings have been lost through laziness or changes in the form of existence which have l e f t words empty. Bare handed the man contends with the sky, without experience of existence seeking to invent and design. SA, 19-20.  When the prevailing myths are l i f e l e s s , the man i s "bare handed", starting from scratch; so Paterson i s , among other things,"a reply to Greek and Latin with the bare hands" (P. 10). The impulse i s , in some sense, a religious one; that i s , that the "religious terms", as opposed to "demoded meanings", are alive, not abstracted from, but expressive of, the rela-  tion of forces and events in nature, in touch with the actual. In Asphodel, That Greeny Flower he says: If we are to understand our time, we must find the key to i t , not in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but in earlier, wilder and darker epochs So to know, what I have to know about my own death, i f i t be real, I have to take i t apart, What does your generation think of Cezanne? I asked a young artist. The abstractions of Hindu painting, he replied, is a l l at the moment which interests me. PB, 162-163.  Yvor Winters says of him: "Dr. Williams i s a good example of the type of poet whom I should c a l l the contemporary primitive." Cf. Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: The ancient Poets animated a l l sensible objects with Gods or Geniuses, calling them by the names and adorning them with the properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, c i t i e s , nations, and whatever their enlarged & numerous senses could percieve. And particularly they studied the genius of each city & country, placing i t under its mental deity; T i l l a system was formed, which some took advantage of & enslav'd the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the mental deities from their objects: thus began Priesthood, Choosing forms of worship from poetic tales. And at length they pronounc'd that the Gods had order'd such things. Thus men forgot that a l l deities reside in the human breast. In Defense of Reason, 3rd ed. (Denver: Alan Swallow, 19V7), p.93.  It i s Cezanne and "certain of the primitives" who best exemplify Williams' ideas of the imagination: The primitives are not back i n some remote age— they are not BEHIND experience. Work which bridges the gap between the rigidities of vulgar experience and the imagination i s rare. It is new, immediate—It i s so because i t i s actual, always real. It i s experience dynamized into reality. SA, 68. Where Winters finds him "wholly incapable of coherent thought" without having had the "good fortune to receive a coherent ,,2k  system as his birthright,  Williams is more interested in  bridging that gap, between art and experience, "the virtual impossibility of l i f t i n g to the imagination those things... close to the nose."  (SE, 11).  Williams was no mystic.  What he was looking for was  hardly different from John Dewey's objective in Art as Exper25 ience;  Dewey saw that his "primary task" as "one who under-  takes to write upon the philosophy of the fine arts...is to restore continuity between the refined and intensified forms of experience that are works of art and the everyday events, doings, and sufferings that are universally recognized to  26 constitute experience."  He argues that art has lost i t s  24 Ibid., 93. 25 New York: Minton, Balch & Co., 1934. o p.3. 2  6  meaning (by this he means not just a l i t e r a l translation of the "message" of a work, but i t s total effect on the viewer) because i t has been separated from the experience that gave rise to i t , "when the esthetic i s already compartmentalized, or...when works of art are set in a niche apart i n stead of being celebrations, recognized as such, of the 27  things of ordinary experience."  Like Williams Dewey is  concerned with the moment, for the experience of a work of art takes place there: "The live animal is fully present, a l l there, in a l l of i t s actions.  (...)  The dog is never  28  pedantic or academic."  The emphasis, then, according to  Dewey, should be on what i s happening, the activity, without any removal in time or attitude, and he found that this "academic" removal was not restricted to any one area: A l l the "fine" arts in order not to become merely refined have to be renewed from time to time by closer contact with materials outside the esthetic tradition. But literature in particular i s the one most in need of constant refreshment from this source, since i t has at command material already eloquent, pregnant, picturesque, and general in i t s appeal, and yet most subject to convention and stereotype. 9 2  27  p.11. Cf. Dubuffet: "...I would like people to look at my work as an enterprise for the rehabilitation of scorned values, and, in any case, make no mistake, a work of ardent celebration....", quoted in Irrational Man, William Barrett (Doubleday Anchor Books, 1962), p.58. 28 .  p.19.  29  p.2U0.  Since he had decided he would never be a painter, Williams had to deal in that same "literature in particular", with i t s "demoded meanings", "convention and stereotype".  But, unlike many writers, he was in constant "contact  with materials outside the esthetic tradition", because he had his medical practice.  "The poem," he says, "springs from  the half-spoken words of such patients as the physician sees from day to day."  (Au, 362); and, when asked where his lang-  uage came from, he replied, "From the mouths of Polish mothers."  (Au, 311).  To take the happenings of every day and "invent and design" an artistic expression, to make a poem, that i s , the experience i s "dynamized" by "the energizing force of the imagination."  (SA, TO).  the Weather":  "The imagination i s the transmuter.  changer."  (SE, 213).  Or, as he says in the essay "Against It is the  Williams' contention, stated or implied,  is always that the world of the imagination i s more valuable and more real than the world of ordinary experience: "It i s the imagination on which reality r i d e s — I t is the imaginat i o n — " (SA, 76); and so "the exaltation men feel before a work of art i s the feeling of reality they draw from i t . sets them up, places a value upon experience—  11  (SA, 6 l ) .  The value, then, i s placed, not just on what Dewey calls See Preface to SE, p.xiv.  It  "esthetic experience", but on a l l experience.  The imagination  was, to Williams, the source of l i f e in poetry, and in a l l art; and the world of the imagination was a new world. In the early parts of Spring and A l l Williams sets up a fantasy to illustrate his meaning.  He has "the imagination,  intoxicated by prohibitions", destroy the world.  Completely.  But the history of the world repeats i t s e l f exactly, and, with the approach of spring, i t has a l l grown back, "EVOLUTION HAS REPEATED ITSELF FROM THE BEGINNING."  (SA, 8 ) .  A perfect plagiarism results. Everything is and is new. Only the imagination i s undeceived. SA, 9. As a result of this "process of miraculous  verisimilitude"  (SA, 11), "men look about in amazement at each other with a f u l l realization of the meaning of 'art'."  (SA, 9). For  this new world, simultaneous with the old, i s the world of the imagination, separated from ordinary l i f e , but contiguous with i t ; in this world of the imagination the "demoded meanings" have been revitalized "to the religious terms". Here the possibilities of Pound's dictum: "Great literature i s simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible 31 degree," may be realized; that i s , a possibility of language: "How to Read", Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, edited by T.S. Eliot (London: Faber, i960), p.23.  The value of the imagination to the writer consists in its ability to make words. Its unique power i s to give created forms reality, actual existence and the unique proof of this i s the work of the imagination not 'like' anything but transfused with the same forces which transfuse the earth— SA, 49-50. Pound's "meaning" i s simply Williams''"force of the imagination", a language restored to i t s potency by the imagination. In "The Rose" we can see the flower come to l i f e in another dimension, as i t "penetrates space."  It goes from  nothing, an "obsolete" existence, to a reality that is alive;' the rose of the poem is a new rose, and i t s energy cuts through to an experience of roses that i s new.  And i t i s new by the  power of the imagination. The poem is not to be understood as a copy of a rose in nature, nor of Juan Gris' collage; Williams (in a letter to Frank Moore) i s insistent: To copy nature i s a spineless activity; i t gives us a sense of our mere existence but hardly more than that. But to imitate nature involves the verb: we then ourselves become nature, and so invent an object which i s an extension of the process. SL, 297. and again in the Autobiography, he says: See below, pp.43-1+7,, for a discussion of the potency of language.  It is NOT to hold the mirror up to nature that the artist performs his work. It is to make, out of the imagination, something not at a l l a copy of nature, hut something quite different, a new thing, unlike any thing else in nature, a thing advanced and apart from i t . To imitate nature involves the verb to do. Au, 261. and even again, in The Desert Music: NOT, prostrate, to copy nature but a dance! to dance two and two with him— PB, 109. It is the verb, to do or to dance, the activity of creation, not the copy: I mean that there w i l l always be prose painting, representative work, clever as may be in revealing new phases of emotional research presented on the surface. But the jump from that to Cezanne or back to certain of the primitives is the impossible. SA, 68. "The Rose" then is not a description of the collage, but an enactment of i t ; the collage is "dynamized" into "a separate form".  (SA, 6 7 ) . The forces.that move the poem are the forces  that move the collage are the forces that move the rose in the garden — "a rose is a rose is a rose", "transmuted" in (by) the imagination.  So, art that "holds the mirror up to nature" (SA, 50) is "a sham nature, a ' l i e ' "  (SA, 51), for i t sets up a  false value; the mirror deals in surfaces where there should he penetration. Shakespeare then holds no mirror up to nature hut with his imagination rivals nature's composition with his own. He himself become "nature"—continuing " i t s " marvels—if you w i l l . SA, 51. "Bare handed" he invents. Williams describes the plight of the man who would swallow the ocean, finding i t too vast (just as nature i s ' too vast for "even the most robust constitution"), comes to the realization that "the stomach i s f u l l , the ocean no f u l l er, both have the same quality of fullness."  (SA, 28-29).  With that knowledge he no longer seeks to copy nature (swallow the ocean), but to achieve "some approximate co-extension with the universe, which is possible by aid of the imagination" (SA, 27), which i s an act of imitation.  This i s the  "interpenetration, both ways" of the Preface to Paterson (P, 12); as Miller states in his essay of introduction: "A p r i mordial union of subject and object is the basic presupposition of Williams' poetry. William Carlos Williams, p.6  In this sense the space that the rose's f r a g i l i t y has penetrated is the space between the reader's (or the poet's) imagination and the rose i t s e l f .  It is then that the rose  breaks through into our experience, and transforms what we have always known about roses, by presenting us with new knowledge. We are not experiencing a rose — for that we can go to the garden — we are experiencing a poem, and the poem is of roses; the forces that move in the poem are an enactment of the forces that move in the rose.  Jon Furberg points out  in Principles of Interaction between Romantic Poems and Reader that "an alteration in the way we think about the smell of a rose does not, cannot, change the way we smell the 34 rose."  And Williams writes i n "Shadows":  unless—unless things the imagination feeds upon, the scent of the rose, startle us anew. PB, 152. It is not the thought but the experience, of the poem or of the rose, that can transform what we know of roses; the result, when next we go to the garden, is a new, or renewed, experience. 3k  Unpublished dissertation, U.B.C, April, 1970, p.11.  The end of the poem is an end to the engagement. A resolution has been achieved (for the nonce), in that the contact between reader and rose has been established. But Williams i s careful in the poem not to l e t himself, or you, touch the rose — part of i t s peculiar existence i s i t s untouchability.  What he has allowed (in fact, forced — i f  you followed the poem's lead) i s that you experience something of the rose's own reality, as well as, and by means of, his own experience of i t .  The engagement i s similar to  the movements of the two armies moving at each other, and finally achieving that "interpenetration"; the result of i t is some kind of understanding, an experience.  It is a move-  ment, "a tension of attraction and repulsion, of incarnation and transcendence, which is like the relation of dancer and dance."  35  And so we arrive at the dance.  Miller, 11.  THE DANCE AS  IMITATION  "In d e s c r i p t i o n words adhere t o c e r t a i n o b j e c t s ,  and  have the e f f e c t on t h e sense o f o y s t e r s , or b a r n a c l e s . " 90).  Dance i s t h e a l t e r n a t i v e t o d e s c r i p t i o n —  or e n a c t s .  I t i s a f u n c t i o n o f the i m a g i n a t i o n .  (SA,  i t imitates, In S p r i n g  and A l l W i l l i a m s says t h a t the i m a g i n a t i o n  i s r i g h t l y understood when John o f Gaunt's words a r e r e l a t e d not t o t h e i r sense as o b j e c t s adherent t o h i s son's w e l f a r e or otherwise but as a dance over the body of h i s c o n d i t i o n a c c u r a t e l y accompanying i t .  SA, 91. And  i t i s "wrongly understood when i t i s supposed  t o be a  removal from r e a l i t y . . . t o imagine p o s s e s s i o n o f t h a t is lost." And  (SA, so, the  which  90). dance:  Go, say I sent thee f o r t h t o purchase honour, And not the King e x i l ' d t h e e ; or suppose Devouring p e s t i l e n c e hangs i n our a i r And thou a r t f l y i n g t o a f r e s h e r c l i m e , Look what t h y s o u l h o l d s dear, imagine i t To l i e t h a t way thou g o e s t , not whence thou com'st. Suppose the s i n g i n g b i r d s m u s i c i a n s , The g r a s s whereon thou t r e a d ' s t the presence strew'd, The f l o w e r s f a i r l a d i e s , and t h y s t e p s no more Than a d e l i g h t f u l measure o r a dance; For g n a r l i n g sorrow h a t h l e s s power t o b i t e The man who mocks a t i t and s e t s i t l i g h t . Richard  I I , I, i i i ,  282-293.  Gaunt's speech "affirms reality most powerfully", not by attempting to describe Bolingbroke's expectations for his period of exile, but by enacting in a poem an expression of "the body of his condition", creating i t in the imagination, so that: By this means of the understanding, the play written to be understood as a play, the author and reader are liberated to pirouette with the words which have sprung from the old facts of history, reunited in present passion. To understand the words as so liberated is to understand poetry. SA, 91. Just as the Cubists* paintings were liberated from the l i t e r a l description or representation of a thing, so the words, liberated from their l i t e r a l sense as description, can move with (accompanying) the thing, "charged with meaning", or, as Williams puts i t : "poetry does not tamper with the world but moves i t — " (SA, 9 l ) .  Poetry, the language of the poem, moves  the world, and the moving force is the imagination: ...not when his words are disassociated from natural objects and specified meanings but when they are liberated from the usual quality of that meaning by transposition into another medium, the imagination. SA, 92. The word "dance" is metaphorical; that i s , i t stands for  something, a c o n d i t i o n , a p l a c e , an a c t i v i t y , t h a t i s e s s e n t i a l l y indefinable. not  I m i t a t i o n , as W i l l i a m s uses t h e word, c a n -  be d i s t i n g u i s h e d from t h e dance.  Both i m i t a t i o n and t h e  dance a r e m e t a p h o r i c a l , and what t h e y stand f o r i s , more o r l e s s , metaphor i t s e l f ;  t h a t i s , "metaphor" i s a l s o w i t h o u t  absolute d e f i n i t i o n —  i t stands f o r c e r t a i n r e l a t i o n s o r  f u n c t i o n s o f t h e i m a g i n a t i o n and language.  So, f o r o u r p u r -  poses, metaphor s h a l l be simply t h e poet's o n l y p o s s i b l e language i n any one i n s t a n c e ( o r poem). be s t r i c t l y  Though i t need not  f a c t u a l , i n t h e sense o f b e i n g s u s c e p t i b l e o f  o b j e c t i v e p r o o f , metaphor i s a c t u a l .  And i f i t i s n o t , w e l l ,  as A l b i o n M o o n l i g h t puts i t :  I would never r e a d a poem o f h i s a g a i n . So i t i s w i t h governments. You can sense the f r a u d .  The word "dance",  I have s a i d , i s m e t a p h o r i c a l ; — w h a t i t ,  r e p r e s e n t s i s a q u a l i t y o f language t h a t has been by t h e i m a g i n a t i o n —  t h a t q u a l i t y i s t h e dance.  "transmuted" Charles  Olson d e s c r i b e s a poem as "...energy t r a n s f e r r e d from where the  poet g o t i t (he w i l l  have some s e v e r a l c a u s a t i o n s ) , by  way o f t h e poem i t s e l f t o , a l l the way over t o , t h e r e a d e r . "  "'"Kenneth Pate hen, The J o u r n a l o f A l b i o n M o o n l i g h t (New D i r e c t i o n s Paperbook No. 99, l ° 6 l ) , p.33. 2 S e l e c t e d W r i t i n g s o f C h a r l e s Olson, e d i t e d by Robert C r e e l e y (New D i r e c t i o n s Paperbook No. 231, 1966), p . l 6 .  2  That "energy" i s not i n any s i g n i f i c a n t way d i f f e r e n t  from  W i l l i a m s ' " f o r c e o f t h e i m a g i n a t i o n " m a n i f e s t e d i n a poem. The dance t h e n i s an e x p r e s s i o n o f t h a t energy.  The poem,  a c c o r d i n g t o Olson, i s "a h i g h e n e r g y - c o n s t r u c t and, a t a l l p o i n t s , an e n e r g y - d i s c h a r g e . " L i k e t h e poem t h e dance i s a " c o n s t r u c t " , a c o n t a i n e r , or shape, f o r t h a t energy; i t i s the form t h e energy assumes i n e x p r e s s i o n .  That form, t h e  dance, i s "both noun, t h e t h i n g , i t s shape, and v e r b , t h e a c t i o n , i t s energy; o r , as Robert Duncan put i t ,  perhaps i n answer t o  Y e a t s : "The dancer i s t h e dance." But what i s i t t h a t i s a dance?  I t i s movement, c e r t a i n l y ,  but not o r d i n a r y movement; o r , o r d i n a r y movement i s n o t n e c e s s a r i l y a dance.  Dance i s a f i g u r e , l i k e metaphor:  I speak i n f i g u r e s , w e l l enough, t h e d r e s s e s you wear a r e f i g u r e s a l s o , we c o u l d not meet othervrise. When I speak of flowers i t i s to r e c a l l t h a t a t one time we were young. A l l women a r e not H e l e n , I know t h a t , but have Helen i n t h e i r h e a r t s . PB,  And  159.  i t i s t i e d t o o r d i n a r y movement i n e x a c t l y t h e same  r e l a t i o n as metaphor i s t o o r d i n a r y speech. The images  evoked by t h e word "dance" a r e v i s u a l , a s  a body moving in front of our eyes; audial, in that one generally imagines the movement to be accompanied (though that word defines baldly a complex relationship) by some sort of music, or rhythm; and tactile, as the feeling of the dance, even i f one is just an observer, perfectly s t i l l , the tensions of the movement imitated in one's muscles and joints.3 The "image" of the dance, then, i s like Pound's "Image", which; he defines as "that which presents an intellectual and emotional k complex in an instant of time."  For the third aspect listed  above, the "feeling", corresponds roughly to the meaning of the thing; a further correspondence then can be seen with Pound's "three 'kinds of poetry" in "How to Read": 1  MELOPOEIA, wherein the words are charged, over and above their plain meaning, with some musical property, which directs the bearing or trend of that meaning. PHAWOPOEIA, which is a casting of images upon the visual imagination. LOGOPOEIA, 'the dance of the intellect among words', that i s to say, i t employs words not only for their direct meaning, but i t takes count in a special way of habits of usage, of the context we expect to find with the word, i t s usual concomitants, of i t s known acceptances, and of ironical play. It holds the aesthetic content which i s peculiarly the domain of verbal manifestation, and cannot possibly be contained in plastic or in music. It i s the latest come,and perhaps most tricky and undependable mode.-' o  Cf. Charles Olson, Proprioception (San Francisco: Four Seasons Foundation, 1965), pp.1-2. The visceral sense of i t . ^"A Retrospect", Literary Essays, p . 4 . ^Literary Essays, p.25.  Although "logopoeia" i s specifically verbal and allows a range of possibilities of meaning that the language of the dance cannot contain, the dance remains an apt metaphor for the "three 'kinds of poetry'", or the poem that functions within those three categories; that i s , the activity of the poem, reading or writing i t , i s what I am calling the dance. The dance movement i s linear, in that i t begins at some point in time and progresses through time until i t is completed.  Both the poem and the jazz run share this linear  quality, the elapse of time as they move forward.  The dance  may consist of a series of stances or tableaux, but these cannot be separated and treated as autonomous units.  Similarly,  neither the poem nor the jazz run can be broken down into components that w i l l exist on their own. For, in a l l three, one movement or stance leads to, and away from, another, and the value of i t , dance, poem, or jazz run, i s in the experience of the whole movement, whether i t happens in an instant or an hour; and that experience is not linear, but something more like Pound's "intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time." What makes a movement a dance i s what makes an ordinary experience a poem, that i s , "the energizing force of imagination" (SA, 7 0 ) .  Williams says in Asphodel:  Only the imagination i s realI  I have declared i t time without end. PB, 179. and Isadora Duncan, in her introductory chapter, writes: "Nothing seems to exist save in the imagination...."  Later  Isadora says: Before I go out on the stage, I must place a motor in my soul... When'that begins to work by legs and arms and my whole body w i l l move independently of my w i l l . But i f I do not get time to put that motor in my soul, I cannot dance.^ i  And Williams: But poetry i s the machine which drives i t , pruned to a perfect economy. As in a l l machines i t s movement i s i n t r i n s i c , undulant, a physical more than a literary character. In a poem this movement is distinguished in each case by the character of speech from which i t arises. And, at another time, Isadora says: The dancer of the future w i l l be one' whose body and soul have grown so harmoniously together that the natural language of that soul w i l l have become the movement of the body.9 My  6  Life, Black & gold ed. (Mew York; Liveright, 19^U),  p.l. T  I b i d . , 168.  Q  "Author's Introduction to The Wedge", Collected Later Poems, Revised ed. (New York: New Directions, 1963), p.4 Abbreviated hereafter as CLP. ^Irma Duncan, Duncan Dancer (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1965), p.25  The movement of poem and dance are expressive, each with i t s own language. as  And neither points to a meaning outside  itself;  Williams says i n "Revelation":  The objective i n writing i s , t o reveal. It i s not to teach, not to advertise, not to s e l l , not even to communicate (for that needs two) but to reveal, which needs no other than the man himself. SE, 268.  The dance i s expressive — ble  to t a l k by dancing?  as Zorba says: "Is i t p o s s i -  And yet I dare swear that's how the  gods and d e v i l s must t a l k to each o t h e r . W a t c h the hands of a deaf-mute — dance.  sign language i s nothing i f i t i s not a  Henri F o c i l l o n c a l l s h i s f i n a l chapter "In Praise of  Hands", a t r i b u t e : Language, f i r s t experienced by the whole body and mimed i n the dance, was also formed by the hands. In everyday use, movements of the hands gave zest to the language, helped a r t i c u l a t e i t , separate i t s elements, i s o l a t e them from a vast sonorous syncretism, and helped to give rhythm to language, even to color i t with subtle i n f l e c t i o n s . (...) There i s no need to choose between the two formulas over which Faust hesitates: i n the beginning was the Word, i n the beginning was Action; because Action and the Word, the hands and the voice, are united i n the same b eg inning s.^  Before he could speak, the man danced — reveal the man inside.  speech and dance  So the poet, who i s a word man,  speaks  "^Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek (London: Faber,  1961), p.77.  "^The L i f e of Forms i n Art, revised t r a n s l a t i o n by Charles Beecher Hogan and George Kubler (New York: Wittenborn, Schultz, Inc., 1948), p.68.  and writes:  How  s h a l l we get said what must he said?  Only the poem.  Only the poem! Only the made poem, the verb c a l l s i t into being. PB,  108,  110.  For the poet, the dance i s i n the language: That which i s heard from the l i p s of those to whom we are t a l k i n g i n our day's-affairs mingles with what we see i n the streets and everywhere about us as i t mingl e s also with our imaginations. By t h i s chemistry i s fabricated a language of the day which s h i f t s and r e veals i t s meaning as clouds s h i f t and turn in'the sky and sometimes send down r a i n or snow or h a i l . This i s the language to which few ears are tuned so that i t i s said by poets that few men are ever i n t h e i r f u l l senses since they have no way to use their imaginations. Thus to say that a man has no imagination i s to say nearly that he i s b l i n d or deaf. But of old poets would translate t h i s hidden language into a kind of r e p l i c a of the speech of the world with c e r t a i n d i s t i n c t i o n s of rhyme and meter to show that i t was not r e a l l y that speech. Nowadays the elements'of that language are set down as heard and the imagination of the l i s t e n e r and of the poet are l e f t free to mingle i n the dance.12  So, to swing back a l i t t l e , the dance i s a quality of language, expressive of the' force of the imagination. for Williams, what distinguishes poetry from prose. i s a "statement of f a c t s . . . f i c t i o n a l and o t h e r — "  It i s ,  Prose (SA, 67);  12  William Carlos Williams, Kora i n H e l l (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1 9 5 7 ) , p . 4 9 . Abbreviated hereafter as KH.  poetry i s a "new form dealt with as a reality in i t s e l f . (...)  the form of poetry is related to the movements of the  imagination revealed in words." (SA, 6 7 ) .  The poem is imita-  tion: NOT, prostrate, to copy nature but a dance! to dance two and two with him— PB, 109. And in the poem the words are freed from the necessity of communicating data: ...That they move independently when set free i s the mark of their value. Imagination is not to avoid reality, nor i s i t description nor an evocation of objects or situations, i t i s to say that poetry does not tamper with the world but moves i t — It affirms reality most powerfully and (...) i t creates a new object, a play, a dance which is not a mirror up to nature but— SA,  91.  The play and the dance are actual, they are just not ordinary. They both move the world. Ernest Fenollosa's studies of the Chinese language led him to an exploration of what happens in the language of a poem, how the energy comes across in the Chinese, and in English. "The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry", reprinted in Prose Keys to Modern Poetry, edited by Karl Shapiro (New York: Harper & Row, 1 9 6 2 ) , pp.136-154.  His d i s c o v e r i e s a r e remarkably s i m i l a r t o t h o s e of B r o n i s l a w M a l i n o w s k i , an ethnographer who spent many y e a r s l i v i n g among  14 the T r o b r i a n d I s l a n d e r s  i n the western P a c i f i c ,  though one  was d e a l i n g w i t h the complex w r i t t e n language of a h i g h l y d e v e l o p e d and l o n g - l i v e d c u l t u r e ,  and the other w i t h t h e u n -  w r i t t e n and r u d i m e n t a r y language o f a p r i m i t i v e o n e . conclusion i s  simply that  "Language,  and a l l L i n g u i s t i c p r o c e s s e s  d e r i v e t h e i r power o n l y from r e a l p r o c e s s e s i n man's to h i s surroundings.""'"  Malinowski's  relation  5  T h i s power i n language,  t h a t of the m a g i c a l  incantation^  or t h e power g i v e n t o Adam t o name "every b e a s t o f the and every f o w l o f the a i r " , its  primitive state.  is characteristic  field,  of language  in  F e n o l l o s a says t h a t t h e Chinese language,  with i t s p i c t o r i a l r a t h e r than phonetic nature, much o f t h a t o r i g i n a l magic  has  retained  because  i t s etymology i s c o n s t a n t l y v i s i b l e . (...) The v e r y of Chinese l i f e seems e n t a g l e d i n the r o o t s o f i t s speech.- -?  soil  1  There i s mystery i n i t ,  " p r i m a l " j u s t means f i r s t  t h i n g s , and  " ^ " T h e Problem o f Meaning i n P r i m i t i v e Language", p u b . as Supp. I t o The Meaning o f Meaning, C . K . Ogden & I . A . R i c h a r d s , 8 t h e d . (Hew York: H a r e o u r t , Brace & W o r l d , 1946),  pp.296-336.  "^Ibid.,  p.336.  "^See M a l i n o w s k i , Argonauts of the Western P a c i f i c , (Hew Y o r k : E . P . D u t t o n , 1932), "The Power o f Words i n Magic Some L i n g u i s t i c D a t a " , pp.428-463.  17 F e n o l l o s a , p.150.  —  f i r s t things were actions; Focillon: "Action and the Word, the hands and the voice, are united in the same beginning." It is not abstract, but what William Barrett calls for, "restoring to man his sense of the primal mystery surrounding l8  a l l things;"  that i s , against abstraction, "transfused with  the same forces which transfuse the earth."  (SA,50).  It is  a reality as live as the world i s . Fenollosa argues that that v i t a l reality expresses i t self in language that is essentially verbal, not nominal: A true noun or isolated thing does not exist in nature. Things are only the terminal points, or rather the meeting points of actions, cross-sections cut through actions, snapshots. Neither can a pure verb, an abstract motion, be possible in nature. The eye sees noun and verb as one: things in motion, motion in things, and so the Chinese conception tends to represent them. The sun underlying the bursting forth of plants— spring. The sun sign tangled in the branches of the tree sign — east. "Rice-field" plus "struggle" — male. "Boat" plus "water", boat-water, a ripple. Or, as Alan Watts says in his Introduction to The Philosophy of the Tao, "one who thinks in Chinese has l i t t l e difficulty in seeing that objects are also events, that our world is a collection of processes rather than entities." As, for example, the f i s t , a noun in English, is not so Irrational Man;0275• 'Fenollosa, p. 141.  much an object as a stage i n an action, Fenollosa's "crosssections" or "snapshots", the energy of the thing, caught. Malinowski found, i n studying language formation, that "grammatical categories...are the r e f l e c t i o n of the makes h i f t , unsystematic, p r a c t i c a l outlook imposed by man's  20 struggle f o r existence i n the widest sense of t h i s word," The form of the language, then, p a r a l l e l s natural processes and everyday experience; i t s roots are i n the earth as man's experience i s also rooted there —  as Williams says: "Nothing  can grow unless i t taps into the s o i l . " (Au, 3 3 4 ) .  That  "makeshift, unsystematic, p r a c t i c a l " aspect of language i s what Williams saw himself and Pound looking for i n t h e i r poems: We seek a language which w i l l not be at least a deformation of speech as we know i t — b u t w i l l embody a l l the advantageous jumps, swiftnesses, colors, movements of the day — t h a t w i l l , at l e a s t , not exclude language as spok e n — a l l language (present) as spoken. SE,  109.  And the form, the o r i g i n a l form, of the sentence, represents an action; Fenollosa says: A l l truth has to be expressed i n sentences because a l l truth i s the transference of power. The type of Malinowski, "The Problem of Meaning", pp.327-328.  sentence in nature is a flash of lightning. It passes between two terms, a cloud and the earth. Wo unit of natural process can be less than this. x  So, Olson's definition of the poem as "...energy transferred . . . a l l the way over to, the reader," the energy or power of i t comes through from the original sentence, for the original sentence i s magical act, or enactment. As Malinowski found: "in i t s primitive uses, language i s a mode of action and not 22 an instrument of reflection." It i s interesting to note that the "to be" copula i s the predominant verb in discursive writing, and that i t is hardly a verb at a l l —  the word "discursive" i s the clue.  Fenollosa argues that the transitive, or strong verbs represent more closely the way the world actually works; for example, in the English sentence, "The sky i s blue", the verb has no action in i t —  i t serves as a connective between noun  and adjective and does not suggest any perceptual action, that is, the eye seeing a blue sky.  The shift from a world of  actual perceptions to one of static qualities is part of the process of abstraction: There is in reality no such verb as a pure copula, no such original conception, our very word exist means • "to stand forth", to show oneself by a definite act. 21 Fenollosa, p.l42. "Problem of Meaning", p.312.  "Is" comes from the Aryan root as^ to "breathe. is from bhu, to grow. ^  "Be"  2  So, to restore contact with that world that Williams  saw  in the primitives, cave painters or Cezanne, one must find a language to express i t , the "world that breaks through to the actual."  (SI, 324).  And the language that acts is verbal:  The form of the Chinese transitive sentence, and of the English (omitting particles) exactly corresponds to this universal form of action in nature. This brings language close to things, and in i t s strong reliance upon verbs i t erects a l l speech into a kind of dramatic poetry. ^ 2  Williams' world was made up of things, animated by the force of imagination.  An idea, reflective, abstracted from  experience, as, say, a theological argument about the "good" or the "god", cannot be sensibly considered. So Williams insists, "No ideas but in things."  (P, 14).  For things are  not necessarily just rocks or hubcaps, discrete as an object can be; for the other way around seems more natural, where a thing is a stage ("limiting term") of an action.  With what  Einstein told us of relativity, that r.ock might be just energy anyway: "The stone lives, the flesh dies / —we nothing of death"  (P, 64).  23  Fenollosa, p.l44. Ibid., p.143.  know  So ideas which are "in things" do  not live in a world apart, as in "the 'UNIVERSE of discourse'", but are expressive of (and grow from) the interrelated actions of the actual world, in ...the only two universes which count, the two phenomenal ones, the two a man has need to bear on because they bear so on him: that of himself, as organism, and that of his environment, the earth and planets. 25  Williams' world of things, animated by the imagination, i s Imitated (invented) in the poems: "To imitate nature involves the verb to do."  (Au, 241).  And to do is to cause to dance.  The dance i s action or movement, in the body or in the poem. The following i s one of his poems that Williams called "The Dance":  26  In Breughel's great picture, The Kermess, the dancers go round, they go round and around, the squeal and the blare and the tweedle of bagpipes, a bugle and fiddles tipping their bellies (round as the thicksided glasses whose wash they impound) their hips and their bellies off balance to turn them. Kicking and rolling about the Fair Grounds, swinging their butts, those shanks must be sound to bear up under such rollicking measures, prance as they dance in Breughel's great picture, The Kermess. CLP, 11. It i s not until the second to the last line that Williams Charles Olson, "Human Universe", Selected Writings, p.54. See also "The Dance", PB, 32.  uses the verb "dance", yet the poem does not s i t s t i l l f o r a moment; that i s , except f o r the i d e n t i c a l f i r s t and l a s t l i n e s which, l i k e a picture-frame, contain the a c t i o n . The "ou" diphthong i s repeated seven times i n the poem, four o f them i n the word "round" or "around"; not only does i t suggest the healthy roundness of the b e l l i e s , i t also imitates the shape of the mouth c a v i t y i n blowing an instrument l i k e a bagpipe.  The dance- i s a round, l i k e the song of  several v o i c e s , t u r n i n g , f o r i f you want t o keep moving and the space i s not l a r g e , you go round and then around again. The "ou" blows through the poem, the breath of the p i p e r , reserved i n the pig's bladder under h i s arm, gives the poem breath and being. In h i s "Author's Introduction t o The Wedge" Williams makes "Two bald statements: There's nothing sentimental about a machine, and: A poem i s a small (or l a r g e ) machine made of words."  (CLP_, 4 ; a l s o i n SE, 256). This poem, then, i s more  l i k e a w h i r l i g i g than a sewing machine; i t s components, the words, are abundant with t h i n g s , the names of them and t h e i r actions.  Thus, the three words "squeal",- " b l a r e " , "tweedle",  though they are nouns, the names of t h i n g s , carry enough energy t o overcome the i n e r t i a of "bugle", " f i d d l e s " , " b a g pipes",, the " b e l l i e s " and "hips", even t o s t i r up the "wash" of that f i r s t sentence.  For, though they are s t r i c t l y nouns,  those words, the sounds the instruments make, enact the  activity of the players, and animate the dancers; as Eihaku observed, and Pound translates: The foreman of Kan Chu, drunk, danced because his long sleeves wouldn't keep s t i l l With that music playing, "Exile's L e t t e r "  2T  There are relatively few true verbs in the f i r s t sentence of Williams' poem, they are "go", "go", "turn", and "impound"; but the adjectives, "round", and the nouns, the sounds and a l l the dancing things, get their signal, to "go-go", and they do, they move.  In the second sentence the  lines are propelled by the participial forms, "kicking", "rolling", "swinging", and "rollicking", until, at the last, they break into the f u l l verbs, "prance" and "dance". But by this time the "butts" and "shanks" have been well under way and those verbs come almost as an afterthought; that i s , they are not needed to spur on the poem's movement, but function more as a denouement, winding the poem down to the last line, as i f making a comment on a l l the action that has preceded them. So, the t i t l e , which i s , in the strict grammatical sense, a noun, provides a key to the way the poem works, that i s to sa  y» by the verbal energy invested into the things of the poem:  27 Ezra Pound, Selected Poems, edited by T.S. Eliot, paperbound edition (London: Faber and Faber, 1964), p.133.  A poem i s tough by no quality i t borrows from a l o g i cal r e c i t a l of events nor from the events themselves but solely from that attenuated power which draws perhaps many broken things into a dance giving them thus a whole thing. SE, l U . Williams' sense of the movement, expressed in energetic language, imitates in the poem the action that Breughel's compositional genius captures in the picture; and the "attenuated power" in the language i s the imagination, or metaphor, which i s a dance. When a man lives on the prairie, or the open ocean, his poem w i l l move, perhaps, in a straight line outward, toward the visible horizon.  But i f he doesn't, i f he lives i n the  city, or writes on 8 1/2" paper, he finds limits and must discover his own possible horizons; as Olson says in a "Note... for this -book": "The lines which hook-over should be read as though they lay out right and f l a t to the horizon or Eterni,28  ity.  Since the man must move, when his space runs out, he  comes round again, as does, of course, the man on the ocean too, though his cycle takes longer.  So the dance i s a round,  the circle being the natural movement. The rose i s a circle of petals; so is the poem "The Rose", and when the last petal's edge is fixed, the flower is transformed, comes to l i f e , "penetrates space." "  28 '  Selected Writings, p.158.  Or, in  another poem of the same t i t l e , i t i s "A grace of petals skirting / the tight-whorled cone" (CEP, 369), the skirt moves around the outside.  In "Daisy" the poet twirls the  flower, looking at i t : But turn and turn the crisp petals remain brief, translucent, greenfastened, "barely touching at the edges: blade of limpid seashell. CEP, 208. homing in on that last line, the light shines through the petals.  "Primrose" (CEP, 209) presents the flower in the  f i r s t line: "Yellow, yellow, yellow, yellowl", and the poem circles outward, i t s circumference is a l l of summertime, returns to reaffirm "clear yellow'", and around again around the flower's centre.  The flower's form, the petals that open  outward, is the expression, clear and explicit, of that c i r cular motion; so the poems, in imitation, move the same way — the dance of the flowers i s a round. To engage the world, be engaged in i t , is to dance, for to dance means to move with (or across, or against) whatever or whoever i s your partner.  So the poem's movement follows  the movement of whatever i s i t s subject, as, for example, in "Philomena Andronico" (CLP, 120-121), where a young g i r l i s in the street "reflectively bouncing / the red b a l l " vrhile the more active boys are "busy / at ball / in the worn lot /  nearby".  The movement is slow,  (Not as she had done formerly screaming and missing But slowly surely) then pausing throws the ball With a f u l l slow very slow and easy motion following through With a slow half t u r n — as the ball f l i e s and r o l l s gently and the poem moves with i t ; the.long "o" sounds, especially in "slow" and "slowly", draw out the energy of the verb "throws", stretch i t into a continuous motion.  Or, a simple  comparison of the f i r s t and second stanzas above, the way the line breaks, as in "surely) then / pausing throws", and the "s" sounds in the second, slow down the fast forward movement of the f i r s t stanza, shows clearly how Williams has imitated the action of the scene. The b a l l , though its arc i s a further expression of the throwing action, i s free, and "flies / and r o l l s " now on i t s own, the action is rolled right up inside the sphere, moving. The other child misses, though the ball is almost stopped, "waiting" at his feet, and runs after i t ; the g i r l  slowly regains her former pose Then shoves her fingers up through her loose short hair quickly Draws one stocking tight and waiting tilts Her hips and in the warm s t i l l air lets her 'arms Fall Fall loosely (waiting) at her sides The poet's eye, like a movie camera, follows the hall in a panning movement until i t has rolled out of the picture, then returns to focus on the g i r l , and holds that angle for the rest of the poem. While she waits for the hall, she shoves her fingers through her hair, draws her stocking tight, t i l t s her hips, and finally lets her arms f a l l , waiting; the diminishing force of the verbs brings the action to the f i n a l "pose", standing and waiting.  But each shot, what  Fenollosa calls "cross-sections cut through actions" or "ideographs", is both action and pose; and the accumulated energy of them informs that final pose (or poise).  The ener-  gy with which i t penetrates and activates the reader's ima-  gination i s the energy of the dance in the poem, perceived by the poet's eye, imitated verbally in the poem, and transferred "by way of the poem i t s e l f to, a l l the way over to, the reader." The movement in a circle, the roundelay or rondeau, occurs in many of Williams' poems. In some i t is the cycle of birth, growth, death, decay, rebirth that is natural to any live thing, whether i t is the soil or a civilization.  In a  poem such as "The Term" the movement i s explicit: A rumpled sheet of brown paper about the length and apparent bulk of a man was rolling with the wind slowly over and over in the street:as a car drove down upon i t and crushed i t to the ground. Unlike a man i t rose again rolling with the wind over and over to be as i t was before. CEP, 409. Right there, "Unlike / a man i t rose / again... / ...to be as / i t was before", the cycle, rolling on, "perpetual motion", the process continues.  So, in "Perpetuum Mobile: The  City", the process of the city circles on: Neither the rain Nor the storm— can keep them for love! from the daily accomplishment of their appointed rounds— Guzzling the creamy foods while out of sight in the sub-cellar— the waste fat the old vegetable chucked down a chute the foulest sink in the world— And go on the out-tide ten thousands cots floating to sea like weed that held back the pristine ships— And fattened there an eel in the water p i p e — No end— There! There! There! CEP, 388-389.  The eel,  the garbage, the daily rounds of the city are the  cycles the poem moves in — a cycle of l i f e , "There is no end / to desire—", i t continues, the perpetual motion of i t a l l , in a single moment. The world happens as i t does, a l l at once, and the man dances as he can: But only the dance is sure! make i t your own. Who can t e l l what i s to come of it? in the woods of your own nature whatever twig interposes, and bare twigs have an actuality of their own this flurry of the storm that holds us, plays with us and discards us dancing, dancing as may be credible. PB, 33. Williams' expressed interest is i n "the moment", so for the  moment one dances.  But the moment, myself sitting here,  the  typewriter, the sounds of the street, a man in a red  jacket walking by, the taste in my mouth, and a l l else that might be in my mind, how does one put i t a l l into language, a language that w i l l carry the energy of that moment and awareness of i t , that w i l l have the simultaneity and effect of,say, a painting, or sculpture. To express the moment in language, one must break i t  into components, since the movement of language i s linear. So the circular dance is a possibility to achieve some kind of sumultaneity in the language, as in Williams' "Spring Strains", which Dijkstra calls "an elaborate attempt at painting a  29  Cubist picture in words."  In a tissue-thin monotone of blue-grey buds crowded erect with desire against the sky tense blue-grey twigs slenderly anchoring them down, drawing them i n — two blue-grey birds chasing a third struggle in circles, angles, swift convergings to a point that bursts instantlyI Vibrant bowing limbs pull downward, sucking in the sky that bulges from behind, plastering i t s e l f against them in packed r i f t s , rock blue and dirty orange! But— (Hold hard, rigid jointed trees!) the blinding and red-edged sun-blur— creeping energy, concentrated counterforce—welds sky, buds, trees, rivets them in one puckering hold! Sticks through! Pulls the whole counter-pulling mass upward, to the right locks even the opaque, not yet defined ground in a t e r r i f i c drag that i s loosening the very tap-roots! On a tissue-thin monotone of blue-grey buds two blue-grey birds, chasing a third, at f u l l cry! Now they are flung outward and up—disappearing suddenly! CEP, 259. Hieroglyphics,  p.6k.  The energy, of the scene, as Williams puts i t , i s " t e r r i f i c " ; i t i s , except for the movement of the birds, a " s t i l l - l i f e " , yet the dynamic forces, the "strains" of spring, make i t a dramatic occasion.  The tree*s roots hold in the earth, the  branches pull down the sky's fabric, the tension is of matter and surfaces; the forces are made concrete, the sky a fluid or fabric, the sun's heat a welder's torch.  The contest  of "rock blue / and dirty orange!", the sun and the sky, with the downward pull of the tree and the ground, of "sucking", "puckering", counter-pulling", "bulges", with a l l i t s violence of force and "concentrated counterforce", is happening on a simple backdrop, the "tissue-thin monotone of blue-grey buds", with the three "blue-grey birds", swifts probably, playing on i t .  The tissue i s like the surface tension of a  fluid, stretching and billowing with the "strains", without breaking, containing the action. But the energy seems too much, and the birds, the only things loose, "are / flung outward and up—disappearing  suddenly!"  Dijkstra describes the movement of this poem as "nonsequential...— that i s , movement which, instead of developing in a linear, 'narrative' fashion, moves, circles, as .,30 i t were, within a narrowly defined visual space.  In fact,  the space could easily be enclosed within the frame of a picture, that is to say, the poem as canvas. Ibid., 64.  There is prac-  t i c a l l y no passage of time in the poem, the action ends a moment or so after i t begins, just long enough for the swifts to make a few darting moves, and disappear.  If we see the  poem as a s t i l l - l i f e canvas, then what happens in i t is the drawing in of the lines of force, with each line tightening the strain, and the colours are added, then the paint built up into textured layers.  The moment of the poem is physical,  the spatial relations made concrete — you can run your f i n gers along and feel the textures. But i t is also alive — that one word "puckering" animates the "welds" and "rivets" of the sun's pull, and in the trees the buds are "tense", "erect with desire", at the ends of the "vibrant bowing limbs".  The whole i s like the tightly wound centre of a  golf ball, the compositional energy, in the verb forms and the verbal and animate adjectives.  When i t bursts open, the  birds are gone, one i s at both the beginning and the end of the poem at the same time, "In", or "On a tissue-thin monotone of blue-grey buds", aware of that instant of energy, when a spring has,;just sprung; and the dance i t creates has that body sense of touching and moving, tendons, muscles, and joints. The world i s composed as i t lies (lives) there, just happening, when we look at i t , and composed again in the poet's eye as he makes i t in the poem:  I t i s n ' t what he says that counts as a work of a r t , i t ' s what he makes, with such i n t e n s i t y of perception that i t l i v e s with an i n t r i n s i c movement of i t s own to v e r i fy i t s authenticity.  CLP, 5. For to make i s to choose from the random elements available and put them together, as the musician invents a composit i o n , or to compose, so that something l i k e compost i s simply what has been put together, composed.  The composition  of a thing, as you f i n d i t , a landscape of a s i t u a t i o n , i s an expression of the dynamics of i t , energies and tensions,  31 i n e r t i a and momentum.  This i s the k i n e t i c  of the poem, or  of the world. The poet, then, l i k e the farmer ...pacing through the r a i n among his blank f i e l d s , with hands i n pockets, in his head the harvest already planted.  CEP, 243. must seek out, i n the unpromising world of early spring, "black orchards / darkened by the March c l o u d s — " , the shape of his composition.  There i s "room f o r thought", for  the farmer's "deep thought"; his f i e l d s are blank l i k e the poet's page.  So, Williams says:  31 The "science of the r e l a t i o n s between the motions of bodies and the forces acting upon them", from the Greek, kineo, to move.  When a man makes a poem, makes i t , mind you, he takes words as he finds them interrelated about him and composes them—without distortion which would mar their exact significances—into an intense expression of his perceptions and ardors that they may constitute a revelation in the speech that he uses. CLP, 5. The poet "takes words as he finds them", that i s , as they f a l l within the range of his attention, or perceptions. As Charles Olson says in his essay "Projective Verse", part of which appears as Chapter 50 in Williams' Autobiography (Au, 329-332): The objects which occur at every given moment of composition (of recognition, we can c a l l i t ) are, can be, must be treated exactly as they do occur therein and not by any ideas or preconceptions from outside the poem, must be handled as a series of objects in f i e l d in such a way that a series of tensions (which they also are) are made to hold, and to hold exactly inside the content and the context of the poem which has forced i t s e l f , through the poem and them, into being.32  The composition of the poem as i t takes shape in i t s f i e l d (range or area) is exactly an imitation of the composition of the poet's experience i n i t s f i e l d , the range of his attention.  And the "tensions" that hold are the kinetic of  the created poem. The farmer hasn't got his crops in yet, "A cold wind ruffles the water / among the browned weeds", but the furrows Selected Writings, p.20  have been laid out before.  What he must do is overcome the  hostility of this world that "rolls coldly away", "the brushwood / bristling by / the rain-sluiced wagonroad", and plant the seeds.  The poet, on the other hand, has an open f i e l d in  which to compose; the shape of the harvest, the poem, is as yet undetermined because his composition is always like the f i r s t ploughing, i t must deal with every rock and stump in the process. But there is a difference, i t i s to make, out of the imagination, something not at a l l a copy of nature, but something quite different, a new thing, unlike any thing else in nature, a thing advanced and apart from i t . Au, 241. That i s , to imitate nature, creating i t in a poem, i s to invent: But to imitate nature involves the verb: we then ourselves become nature, and so invent an object which i s an extension of the process. SL,  297.  For nature, like the rose, has no need of the poet's words to affirm i t s reality; as Williams says: "since reality needs no personal support but exists free from human action, as proven by science in the indestructibility of matter and of force, i t creates a new object, a play, a dance which is not  a mirror up to nature but—" (SA, 91). "It", that i s to say, the imagination, "creates a new object", and the new object is the dance, or metaphor. The nature of the poem, then, i s simply not the same as the nature of the reality,for the world of nature i s transfigured in the poem. So, for example, the problem in writing a poem such as Paterson, which i s a poem of_ the city, as well as to, and for i t . The city of the poem i s also the man who is called Paterson, and i s not a copy or representation of the real city.  But i f i t i s to be an enactment of i t , the  city iri the poem, there must be a relation between the two: To make a start, out of particulars and make them general  For the and our  the beginning i s assuredly end—since we know nothing, pure simple, beyond own complexities.  Yet there i s no return: rolling up out of chaos, a nine months' wonder, the city the man, an Identity—it can't be otherwise—an interpenetration, both ways. P, 11-12. The city, the man, and the poem i t s e l f , "an identity"; the poem, an "object", invented, "which i s an extension of the  process", penetrates, and is penetrated by, the reality of the actual city.  And again, that relation, nature transfig-  ured in the poem by the creating power of the imagination, is a dance. The farmer, at the end of his poem, appears silhouetted, as i f on a stage, "looms the artist figure of / the farmer— composing / —antagonist." (CEP, 243).  He composes then in  two senses: f i r s t , that he has'the plan of the harvest patterns in his head —  this makes him an "artist figure"; and  second, that he i s a "figure", he figures in the composition of the poem, just as, say, the figures in Van Gogh's "Potato Eaters" compose that picture.  So the farmer is not a true  artist, not only because i t is not the f i r s t ploughing of the land, but also because he i s not the creator, or inventor, of "a new object, a play, a dance".  But both farmer and poet,  each with his own methods, are transforming a cold world, antagonistic to their efforts, and each engages in his own dance. What holds the poem, i t s kinetic, i s the position and relation of the objects in i t , which i s a tension of composition; as in "The Red Wheelbarrow": so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water  beside the white chickens. CEP, 277.  There is no verbal action in the poem: the "glazing" of the wheelbarrow with rain has already happened, i t almost seems to be varnished; the chickens are there, but not apparently moving; and "depends" seems to indicate a condition or state of dependence, not an action. Yet the poem's energy and v i t a l i t y are undeniably there. Though nothing in the poem moves, there is an action, simply by the kinetic nature of the composition.  The verb  "depends", like the f i r s t line, "I must t e l l you", of "Young Sycamore" (CEP, 3 3 2 ) , casts a kind of urgency over the whole poem —  "so much" of what a poem i s , or can be "depends /  upon" your being able to see and feel the wet wheelbarrow and the chickens; and not just to see them as separate objects, but as a whole, composed, and held by an inner tension. The energy must come through to your awareness, reveal i t s e l f there, or the poem is worth nothing.  That energy is implicit  in an object where i t lies under your gaze, and is expressive of the divers relations of the object and i t s surroundings; and i t is directed by the prepositions, "upon" and "beside" and "with".  The poem's unity, or composure, then, is a result  of the urgency of the f i r s t line, the tension i t casts over the whole, and the sensual qualities of the objects in i t , the  facts of their existence and the poet's perception of them, as they f a l l into place: In the composition, the artist does exactly what every eye must do with l i f e , f i x the particular with the universality of hiw own personality—Taught by the largeness of his imagination to feel every form which he sees moving within himself, he must prove the truth of this by expression. SA, 27. Williams' eye holds the wheelbarrow and chickens in i t s fix —  the f i x that holds the photographic image to the  paper, the snapshot freezing the action, holds the compositional energies, carries them over to the reader. To imitate, not to copy, one must understand the dynamics of the thing; so Williams, in "To a Solitary Disciple" (CEP, 167),  gives instructions: Rather notice, mon cher, that the moon i s t i l t e d above the point of the steeple than that i t s color is shell-pink. Rather observe that i t i s early morning than that the sky is smooth as a turquoise. Rather grasp how the dark converging lines of the steeple meet at the pinnacle— perceive how its l i t t l e ornament tries to stop them—  See how i t f a i l s ! See how the converging lines of the hexagonal spire escape upward— receding, dividing! —sepals that guard and contain the flower! Observe how motionless the eaten moon lies in the protecting lines. It is true: in the light colors of morning brown-stone and slate shine orange and dark blue. But observe the oppressive weight of the squat edifice! Observe the jasmine lightness of the moon. "Rather", that i s , than copy the scene, seeking out similes to describe i t , notice the components of i t ; and not just "notice", but "notice", "observe", "grasp" — that i s , the movement is toward the thing, from focussing one's eyes on i t to "grasping" the physical and spatial relations, and achieving the "interpenetration, both ways" of Paterson. Not by a process of simile, but by penetration, the moon becomes a flower in the early morning; i t i s transfigured in the composition to "the jasmine lightness", a shared quality of light, the colour and the fragility of flower and moon. The scene i s "transmuted" in/by the imagination, and, like the  "instant action" of "Spring-Strains", i n an instant, at the end of the poem, the energy of the scene impresses i t s e l f on the reader's imagination. So, Williams' insistence is that the poet imitates nature, enacts i t , invents a dance of i t . And the kinetic, whether the poem swings like "The Dance" or enacts a scene like "The Red Wheelbarrow", expresses a dynamic world, of light and energy. So the language that moves, circles, drives that energy over to  the reader, a language "able to communicate release from  the f i x i t i e s which destroy i t " (SA, 93), partakes of that dynamism, the world's l i f e and diversity, as does the dance, imitating i t :  Only the poem! Only the made poem, the verb calls i t into being.  THE DANCE AS ENGAGEMENT  In "January Morning: A Suite/' the world is happening with exclamation marks: —and a young horse with a green bed-quilt on his withers shaking his head: bared teeth and nozzle high i n the a i r ! CEP, 163. It moves, and Williams, who is something of a "song-anddance man", moves with i t : The'young doctor is dancing with happiness in the sparkling wind, alone at the prow of the ferry! He notices the curdy barnacles and broken ice crusts l e f t at the slip's base by the low tide and thinks of summer and green shell-crusted ledges among the emerald eel-grass! CEP, 164. The poem i s of early morning, "the domes of the Church of / the Paulist Fathers in Weehawken / against a smoky dawn—", and the actions are just beginning, the freshness and energy when the world is new again, "the heart s t i r r e d — / a r e beautiful as Saint Peters / approached after years of anticipation." (CEP, 162). The poet, travelling (probably) up  to Manhattan, engages in, by watching, listening, and writing, the activity of that world; each of the fifteen sections of the "Suite" i s an aspect, or stance, of the scene, and the poet's part i s to dance. In the f i n a l section Williams addresses the poem to his mother: A l l this  was for you, old woman. I wanted to write a poem that you would understand. For what good i s i t to me i f you can't understand it?' But you got to try hard— ButWell, you know how the young g i r l s run giggling on Park Avenue after dark when they ought to be home in bed? Well, that's the way i t is with me somehow. CEP, 166.  The young g i r l s out past their bedtime, the energy of i t , with the sense of i l l e g a l i t y , or immorality of i t , i s similar to that of the young doctor "dancing with happiness"; i t is not really extroverted, in the sense that i t i s a display, nor really wrong in any way, but rather the exuberant expression of the occasion, the g i r l s knowing they are not behaving as they "ought", and the doctor allowing his feelings, as the ice breaks and he thinks of summer, to break through the demeanor of a professional man.  The activity,  giggling or dancing, is a sign of l i f e , expressive of an immediacy of contact with one's surroundings and activities. That immediacy was characteristic of Williams' mother: Thus, seeing the thing i t s e l f without forethought or afterthought but with great intensity of perception, my mother loses her bearings or associates with some disreputable person or translates a dark mood. She i s a creature of great imagination. I might say this i s her sole remaining quality. She is a despoiled, molted castaway but by this power she s t i l l breaks l i f e between her fingers. SE, 5. As he says in the poem, "For what good is i t to me / i f you can't understand i t ? " ; she is a "castaway", but is s t i l l capable of "seeing the thing itself...with great intensity of perception", "a creature of great imagination."  So, i f  she cannot understand the poem, then there might be something wrong with the poem. That she "loses her bearings" i s not evidence of, say, an inability to concentrate, but rather of a certain kind of focus; what Warren Tallman finds characteristic of Robert Creeley's work, "an exceptional capacity for concentration often drawing him into deep alliance with whatever is at hand","'" might also be said of Mrs. Williams, for,  in a "deep alliance" with something, one can easily  lose touch of such vexatious details as the direction home. "Robert Creeley's Rimethought", TISH (Vancouver, B.C.), 33 (January 4, 1966), 2. 1  Her ability to be intimately involved with the immediate situation i s evidence of what Williams has called a "loosened" attention, capable of "following a more flexible, jagged resort." (SE, l l ) .  It i s a matter of focus, keeping in touch  with the world as i t happens, an ability Williams shares with his mother. Mrs. Williams' "great imagination" is in evidence right 2  through Yes, Mrs. Williams, i n which the poet son has transcribed his mother's stories, comments, and general conversation.  She "breaks l i f e between her fingers", and captures  the pungent core of events, as for example, in a letter beginning "Dear Sonny" and offering "some details" since he had "said something about knowing your ancestors": My father was from Holland extraction, he was a merchant associated with two Germans in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, they received cargos from Europe of rice, flour and I don't know what. I was only eight years old when I lost my father, I didn't know much; a fierce dog was put at night to guard the cargo newly arrived, the name of the dog was Moro. One night he came home like a demon dragging his long chain. It had rained much and the earth was mud, he went to my father's room howl and howl went a l l over, the house was in mourning the master was gone. Wasn't that strange? YMW.28-29. or, at another time: William Carlos Williams (New York: McDowell, Obolensky,  I do* know. She j u s t s a i d she d i d n ' t f e e l w e l l and she l a y down and she d i e d . Yes, she was a C r i s t i a n s c i ence. YMW,  or: "Caracoles!  I used t o dance, l i k e  with foreigners."  125.  a h u r r i c a n e and always  (YMW, 8 9 ) .  When she was v e r y o l d , "a s m a l l woman w i t h white h a i r , clumsy hands, lame, extremely  straggling  deaf and o n l y r e -  c e n t l y r e c o v e r e d from t h e removal o f c a t a r a c t s from eyes"  (YMW, 24),  both  " i n h e r l a s t y e a r s , when i t was i m p o s s i b l e  f o r us t o keep h e r a t home any l o n g e r " (Au, 351), put i n t h e c a r e o f Mr. and Mrs. Harry T a y l o r .  she was  Mrs. T a y l o r  l o o k e d a f t e r t h e r e c a l c i t r a n t o l d woman, because she c o u l d no l o n g e r do a n y t h i n g f o r h e r s e l f , and Harry T a y l o r cooked. She  " l i k e d Harry T a y l o r because he was f a r s u b t l e r t h a n h i s  w i f e : he was i n s h o r t an a r t i s t manque. dancer."  (Au, 353).  (...) He had been a  On one o c c a s i o n  i t seems t h a t , b e i n g w e l l l i q u o r e d up t h e day b e f o r e and f e e l i n g t i p - t o p , he had found Mother gloomy and depressed. He wanted t o l i v e n her up and had s t a r t e d a pirouette. She opened her eyes, she knew i t was good, and gave h e r whole a t t e n t i o n . At t h a t , the two t h e r e alone i n the room, he went on w i t h t h e r o u t i n e u n t i l , w i t h a f i n a l b u r s t o f v i r t u o s i t y , he completed i t w i t h an e n t r e c h a t t h a t had Mother e n t h r a l l e d and a p p l a u d i n g . Au,  The T.  event  355.  i s a l s o r e c o r d e d i n a poem, "The A r t i s t " , (.'"Mr.  / bareheaded / i n a s o i l e d u n d e r s h i r t " ) , where  My mother  taken by surprise where she sat in her invalid's chair was l e f t speechless. Bravo! she cried at last and clapped her hands. PB, 101. Mr. Taylor, whose parents had not allowed him to become a professional dancer, was an artist, simply because, a l though he too was "a despoiled, molted castaway", cooking for an old lady, and drinking too much, he remained a dancer, and danced; and Mrs. Williams was roused from her depression, "she opened her eyes", because "she knew i t was good, and gave her whole attention."  Old and sick as she was, her attention was  s t i l l "whole"; she i s "taken by surprise", taken up from her chair into the dance, by her ability to participate, to "go from one thing to another," (SE, l l ) , and by the energy of i t , "that attenuated power which draws perhaps many broken things into a dance giving them thus a f u l l being."  (SE, 14).  To be  there, in the moment, and to move with i t . In the f i r s t chapter i t was "to engage rose"; here i t i s to engage an old lady whose senses are almost worn out, and, by a work of the imagination, "an entrechat / perfectly achieved", to restore her for the moment to an "active and 3 alert commerce with the world."  The engagement loosens the  3 Dewey, Art as Experience, p.19.  attention from conditioned or preconceived responses, so that i t is free to move as the occasion leads, and tightens i t down, focussing i t on what is happening.  It i s active, enactment,  and the artist must "fight his way to a world that breaks through to the actual." (SL, 324).  This act of engagement i s .  central to Williams' l i f e (activity) as an artist — as he wrote to Kenneth Burke: "Poetry ...is the flower of action." (SL, 137). Our five senses are capable of focus.  The eye i s perhaps  the simplest example; that i s , we have focal vision, how we see when we are looking at_ something, and peripheral vision, when we see something, perhaps out of the corners of our eyes, but are not looking, directing our eyes to i t .  In hearing i t  is the difference between listen to, and hear, or "I think I smell something" as opposed to "Smell that gravy!"; feel instead of touch, and so on.  The senses directed, or focussed, can be  called active, since, i f we bother to look at something, then our attention becomes actively involved in the occasion. involvement i s the subject of the poem "Smell!": Oh strong-ridged and deeply hollowed nose of mine! what w i l l you not be smelling? What tactless asses we are, you and I boney nose always indiscriminate, always unashamed, and now i t is the souring flowers of the bedraggled poplars: a festering pulp on the wet earth beneath them. With what deep thirst we quicken our desires to that rank odor of a passing springtime!  That  Can you not be decent? Can you not reserve your ardors for something less unlovely? What g i r l w i l l care for us, do you think, i f we continue in these ways? Must you taste everything? Must you know everything? Must you have a part in everything? CEP, 153. The "tactless asses", man and nose, pick up a scent and follow i t , like the man said; even though i t is "souring", "festering", "rank odor", he follows his nose, and tact is hardly the answer. Dewey's "commerce with the world" i s both "active" and "alert"; that i s , then, the focal senses might be active  —  but i t i s not true to say that the peripheral senses, the larger awareness, are passive, merely receiving data of varying degrees of vagueness, and causing the focal senses to be directed towards the source of the data.  For that  awareness, the fact that the nose can smell at a l l , and can lead the man down garden paths, i s proof of an alertness, even i f i t i s different from that of the dog, ears perked up, or nose to the ground, an alertness to possibilities, not yet specified, but there. The act of cognition, or re-cognition, causes a shift of attention, to focus,and engage the thing; so then, the act of dancing i s one with the act of perception.  But this  act, the insistence on the particular "thing", instead of the "concept", what can be perceived, i s not the affliction of  the man whose mind i s not large enough to understand the forest and deals just in trees; the man does not walk around, continually in awe, overwhelmed by his senses, for the act of perceiving i s at the same time an act of creation, and the poet's eye is inventing, shaping, composing.  So, in the  "Prologue to Kora in Hell .', Williams says: 1  Although i t is a quality of the imagination that i t seeks to place together those things which have a common relationship, yet the coining of similes is a pastime of very low order, depending as i t does upon a nearly vegetable coincidence. Much more keen i s that power which discovers in things those inimitable particulars of dissimilarity to a l l other things which are the peculiar perfections of the thing in question. SE, 16. That is to say, the man of "discernment" that Williams talks about can pick his way among the trees. It is misleading to set up as alternatives, as Tony Tanner does, "momentary awe" and "systematic theology";^ for the f i r s t is to put oneself abjectly under the thing i t s e l f , bowing down before i t , and the latter, to put oneself lordly over i t .  For what "system"  we find i s most likely of a l l to be in_ the object, i f anywhere, "the peculiar perfections of the thing in question." The area of the man's awareness may be small, as in "The World Contracted to a Recognizable Image": k  The Rejgn of Wonder (Cambridge University Press, 1965), p.92. Noted in unpublished paper by P.A. Quartermain, "On Paterson".  at the small end of an illness there was a picture probably Japanese which f i l l e d my eye an idiotic picture except i t was a l l I recognized the wall lived for me in that picture I clung to i t as to a f l y PB, 42. He i s getting better, perhaps, "the small end of an illness", when he need not be concerned with large things, such as whether he w i l l l i v e , but must wait, his senses impaired somewhat, until he can get up. But i t i s also the "small end", like' the telescope held wrong way round, focussing the whole world into one small circle of vision.  So the picture,  "idiotic" and probably small as well as Japanese, " f i l l e d " his eye, just as the world f i l l s that small hole at the far end of the telescope — i t was a world.  " i d i o t i c " , "except i t was a l l I recognized",  Both the wall and the world "lived for me in  that picture", not theoretically, but actually, or factually; and he lived through his re-cognition of i t , which is an act of perception — the l i f e i s in the act, "systematic theology" has nothing to do with i t . Because Williams' approach to the world is with, his eyes open, ready for anything, he i s said to deal with the"antipoetic",^ that i s to say, with things that are not normally ^See, for example, Wallace Stevens 'Preface to Williams' Collected Poems, 1921-1931. Reprinted in WCW, ed. J. H i l l i s Miller, p.62.  considered the material of poetry.  Thus, A. Kingsley Weather-  head finds that, according to the Coleridgean definition of imagination and fancy; "The f i r s t principle i s that Williams „6 works by fancy rather than imagination.  And, as an alter-  native, he sees Robert Lowell as a poet of imagination, because he f i t s the things of the poem into a large schema, which i s of the Imagination, or "systematic theology".  Since  Williams' system of theology (which he never admitted to having) is of the thing i t s e l f , the range of his perceptions includes much that others might dismiss as peripheral, and allows i t to assume an importance equal to anything else.  The difference  between Williams and.Stevens, and perhaps the reason for Williams' continued irritation at Stevens' use of the word "anti•7  poetic", can be seen in the following nutshell statements; Stevens says: "Not a l l objects are equal. The vice of imagism g was that i t did not recognize this."  And Williams" "Imagism  was not structural: that was the reason for i t s disappearance."^ For, to Williams, the object i t s e l f , as soon as you lay your hands on i t to make a poem, becomes a new thing; that Imagism ^The Edge of the Image (Univ. of Washington Press: Seattle and London, 1967), p.98 "^See, for example, IWW, 52. 8 From Adagia, reprinted in Prose Keys, ed. Karl Shapiro, p. 157. "The Poem as a Field of Action", SE, 283. 9  did not allow for the verb, the shape of the dance, was i t s end. So Williams' inclusive awareness finds sparrows hopping "ingenuously / about the pavement / quarrelling / with sharp voices", and "the old man who goes about / gathering dog-lime", whose "tread / i s more majestic than / that of the Episcopal minister".  These things occur at the edges, in the gutters, of  a busy world, but to Williams, they "astonish me beyond words." (CEP, 124).  Or, we see in "The G i r l " :  with big breasts under a blue sweater bareheaded— crossing the street reading a newspaper stops, turns and looks down as though she had seen a dime on the pavement CLP, 123. the attention shifts to focus on a particular, from "big breasts", perhaps what f i r s t caught Williams' eye, or the "blue sweater", to "bareheaded", to the "newspaper", to the "dime" which wasn't there; that i s , something catches her eye, she looks to see what i t i s .  Williams does no different.  As Dubuffet says: I am struck by the high value, for a man, of a simple permanent fact, like the miserable vista on which the window of his room opens daily, that comes, with the passing of time, to have an important role in his l i f e .  I often think that the highest destination at which a painting can aim i s to take on that function in someone's life.l° This engagement with the facts of the world i s central to the stories collected in The•Farmer's Daughters; in an essay on "The Accident" Warren Tallman finds Williams "less interested to interpret his townspeople than to dance with them." For to dance is to engage with the actual happenings of their lives, often, like a conversation, "a relatively simple back-and-forth movement.""''" This kind of movement, 1  1  conversation as dance, can he seen in "Four Bottles of Beer" (FD, 191), where the doctor v i s i t s a sick boy at home. The boy sleeps almost the whole time, there i s no narration or description, the story i s a record of two people, the doctor and the boy's mother, talking.  The boy lies there — over and  around him move the figures.of two dancers: What's that your mother says? She says to t e l l you he won't eat nothing. What language is that? Russian? No, Polish. •What did she say? Tadke, what's that? That's his name. What you c a l l Theodore. Where was you this morning? The dancer, when he .is not well acquainted with the way she "^Cited in Irrational Man, p.58 "Williams' Perception in 'The Accident'", TISH (Vancouver, B.C.), 43 (no date or pagination). 11  moves, must feel out his partner, move, correct, move again, always staying within the range of his knowledge, until he becomes easier with her.  She asks him:  ...How long you had that maid? Eight years. Does she cook for you? Yes. And you eat it? Why yes. I couldn't eat nigger cooking. You don't know what you're talking about. Yes, that's what my husband t e l l s me. It i s "down to earth", their talk, his questions pointing to particulars, "What's this, cut up onions?" or, looking at the boy's hair, "Why don't you cut i t off, except he'd look like a priest."  She turns on the brand new radio:  What do you like, songs or orchestra pieces? Wow, that's too loud. Turn i t down. Yes, we like i t soft, too, we turn i t down sometimes so you can hardly hear i t . Do you like men singing? Gee, that's awful. and then he drinks some of their homemade beer, likes i t , puts the four bottles she gives him into his satchel, and, Look out you don't drop 'em. Good-bye. The story ends here, the dance continues. They are frank and open in their comments, "Wow, that's too loud", "I couldn't eat nigger cooking", "Gee, that's awful".  There is a gap between them, of language, education,  and culture, and the whole apparatus of polite and social discourse disappears in that gap: "But this language of yours," said one of the instructors, himself an obvious Britisher, "where does i t come from?" "From the mouths of Polish mothers," I replied Au, 311. The contact i s immediate because i f they are going to talk at a l l they must talk about what i s there, within reach, that they both understand.  So she talks about him and his family,  and he looks around the room, touches something, her wedding picture, and they talk.  The limits of the situation, limits  of expectation, need to be overcome, or transcended; then the engagement takes place on a "human" or "real" level, spontaneous as a dance i s . The dance might be called "body language"; Williams, in 12 "Water, Salts, Fat, etc.",  a review of The Human Body, by  Logan Clendening, M.D., says: The book presumes knowledge of the body i t s e l f as the source of a l l knowing: which should come as a refreshing novelty to post-Freudian man and woman. Refreshing, in that i t treats "the body as a unit. (...) The body is a thing which when we see i t roundly as the source of a l l good we see well, and when we see i t cut up for this or 12  , . A Novelette and Other Prose (1921-1931) Toulon, France: TO Publishers, 1932), pp.121-126.  that special set of purposes, we see badly and (if uncorrected) 13 degenerately —  in the manner of a puritan."  Simply that i f  one i s going to dance, one cannot separate the head to look at the Arthur Murray diagram, and then expect the feet to step lively into the dance.  The sense of i t is of the whole body,  that is to say, both complete and sound, the movement, action, 14 perception of the body i t s e l f .  It is that kind of knowledge  that informs the physician's touch, (note well that i t is "physic", not "psychic", the art of healing those things that can be touched, or f e l t ) , tactus eruditis, the exploratory touch that is gentle and assured through long practice. engages, penetrates —  That touch  i t is a dance.  Williams, as a doctor was allowed privileged insights into the private workings of a family: ...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, i t has fluttered before me for a moment, a phrase which I can quickly write down on anything at hand, any piece of paper I can grab. Au, 289. That urgency comes over into the writing, between consultations at the office, at unlikely hours of very early morning, and the 13  I b i d . , p. 122, 123.  14 Cf. Charles Olson, Proprioception. See above, Chapter II, note 3.  urgency to get i t written: The best stories were written at white heat. I would come home from my practice and s i t down and write until the story was finished, ten or twelve pages. IWW,  63.  It is the urgency, when the body is in a state of dis-ease, not just ordinary, functioning a l l right, but under attack, "various engagements between our battalions of cells playing at this or that lethal maneuver with other natural elements." (Au, 286).  In those engagements, the defenses are down, the  body weakened and vulnerable; dis-ease "loosens" the attention, removes preconceptions and expectations, and something may creep in, something of beauty. So, in "Danse Pseudomacabre" (PD, 208), a baby is sick: If i t lives i t w i l l be an idiot perhaps. Or i t w i l l be paralysed—or both. It is better for i t to die. There i t goes now! The whining has stopped. The lips are blue. The mouth puckers as for some diabolic kiss. It twitches, twitches faster and faster, up and down. The body slowly grows rigid and begins to fold i t s e l f like a flower folding again. The left eye opens slowly, the eyeball is turned so the pupil is lost in the angle of the nose. The right eye remains open and fixed staring forward. Meningitis. Acute. The arms are slowly raised more and more from the sides as i f in the d e l i berate attitude before a mad dance, hands clenched, wrists flexed. The arms now l i e upon each other crossed at the wrists. The knees are drawn up as i f the child were squatting. The body holds this posture, the child's belly rumbling with a huge contortion. Breath has stopped. The body is s t i f f , blue. Slowly i t relaxes, the whimpering cry begins again. The left eye f a l l s closed.  The dance i s "mad", "pseudomacabre", and the doctor's observation of i t neither c l i n i c a l nor morbid; i t i s a statement of the facts, "discerned" by the practised eye of the physician, the physical reality of i t .  But i t is not without  beauty, the "diabolic" kiss, and the body "like a flower folding again", just as intestinal bacteria are called f l o r a ; ^  5  one cannot refuse to dance with i t , step by step, whatever the "huge contortion" that i s "rumbling" in i t .  For Williams states:  That which i s possible i s inevitable. I defend the normality of every distortion to which the flesh i s susceptible, every disease, every amputation. ^ x  FD, 208. and so: Everything that varies a hair's breadth from another i s an'invitation to the dance. Either dance or annihilation. There can be only the dance or ONE. FD, 210. It i s the variation, "a hair's breadth", that opens a crack, an opening for the dancer; as he says" "The true value is that peculiarity which gives an object a character by i t s e l f . " (SE, 11).  So the man of discernment uses that "much more keen Novelette, p.125  16  Cf. William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, "Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth."  ...power which discovers in things those inimitable particles of dissimilarity to a l l other things which are the peculiar perfections of the thing in question." (SE, 16). Dis-ease is one case of the "more flexible, jagged resort" (SE, l l ) . Dis-ease, dissimilarity, disparity, dissonance, displacement, the prefix "dis-" means "asunder, away, apart, or between, one by one, utterly", as well as a simple negation; so Mrs. Williams' ability, to "break l i f e between her fingers" (SE, 5) is a key to engagement and dance.  In "Book Four" of  Paterson Madame Curie is doing something similar, in her experiments with uranium: — a furnace, a cavity aching toward fission; a hollow, a woman waiting to be f i l l e d — a luminosity of elements, the current leaping! Pitchblende from Austria, the valence of Uranium inexplicably increased. Curie, the man, gave up his work to buttress her. But she i s pregnant!  A dissonance 'Cf. in "The Desert Music" the lines, "The / jagged desert" and "Let's cut through here—" (PB,110, 111), also Bob Dylan's song "Just like Tom Thumb's blues", which begins "When you're lost in the rain in Juarez" — that i s , Juarez as a "jagged resort". See also Sherman Paul The Music of Survival (Univ. of Illinois Press: Urbana, Chicago, London, 1968), which i s "A Biography" of "The Desert Music".  i n the v a l e n c e l e d t o the  o f Uranium  discovery-  Dissonance ( i f you are i n t e r e s t e d ) leads to discovery  P, 206-207.  Are you  i n t e r e s t e d ? i n the f a c t , perhaps, a t h e o r y ,  sonance /.../  l e a d s t o d i s c o v e r y " , or t h e r e a l i t y o f i t , the  p o s s i b l e d i s c o v e r i e s o f an i n t e r e s t e d approach. dissonances  and  step r i g h t i n .  The  f o r he was  not  "Poor Joseph, //  (P, 218),  a f r u i t f u l discovery, l i k e  unborn c h i l d , f o r someone was " g i s t " i s the  the  / a woman w a i t i n g t o  From the f i s s i o n of uranium i s d i s c o v e r e d  "radiant g i s t "  variation  i n t e r e s t e d enough, "a c a v i t y  / toward f i s s i o n ; a hollow,  filled".  the  so she i s pregnant, a  p e n e t r a t i o n , f r u i t f u l l y accomplished. I t a l i a n s say",  Perceive  " h a i r ' s breadth"  opened, and the engagement ensues —  aching  "Dis-  not  be  the the  a f r a i d to penetrate.  " t r u e v a l u e " , a source  of heat and  The  light,  " t h a t p e c u l i a r i t y which g i v e s an o b j e c t a c h a r a c t e r by i t self",  "without  forethought  i n t e n s i t y of p e r c e p t i o n . "  or a f t e r t h o u g h t but w i t h  (SE,  Dissonance then i s t h e key. dance or ONE." lows the dance.  great  5). "There can be o n l y  the  I t i s t h e d i f f e r e n c e between t h i n g s t h a t a l In "The  Rose" i t i s " a t t h e edge o f the /  p e t a l t h a t l o v e w a i t s " , f o r the edge d i v i d e s the f l e s h the p e t a l from the f l u i d of space, the two  of  cannot occupy  the same location at the same time, and the tension at the edge i s a dissonance; so that when "The f r a g i l i t y of the flower / unbruised / penetrates space", i t i s an act of love. Penetration cuts through the outer surfaces and finds inner surfaces, deep inside and tender to the light.  It is  a great irony then that the "radiant gist" i t s e l f i s just another surface.  But to penetrate is a l l :  —through metaphor to reconcile the people and the stones. Compose. (No ideas hut in things) Invent! Saxifrage i s my flower that splits the rocks. CLP, 7. To"invent" i s to come in upon something, an act of making, as Focillon describes the cave man "chipping the f l i n t and -| Q  fashioning needles out of bone",  to grasp the thing in his  hand and penetrate to i t s meaning by inventing an object from it.  So saxifrage i s the poet's flower, growing in rock clefts,  and with i t s roots penetrating to crack i t open; for the poet's invention, i f i t is ever to "reconcile / the people and the stones", must be relentless as that l i t t l e plant, to dislodge those Life of Forms i n Art, p.69•  Minds like beds always made up, (more stony than a shore) unwilling or unable. P, 13. by force of imagination. So, in "To Daphne and Virginia", the poet says: And I am not a young man. My love encumbers me. It i s a love less than a young man's love but, like this box odor more penetrant, infinitely more penetrant, in that sense not to be resisted. PB, 77. It is the telling contact, "not to be resisted." In "The Poem", Williams insists: It's a l l in the sound. A song. Seldom a song, It should be a song—made of particulars, wasps, a gentian—something immediate, open scissors, a lady's eyes—waking centrifugal, centripetal CLP, 33. "It's a l l in", you mean he's beat? No, i t ' s " a l l in / the  sound", sound as a b e l l , "A song. / Seldom a song.  It should",  "should" what? Wot a song? You mean i t should.... But no, "It should // be a song—", a song.  A song, "made of / parti-  culars, wasps, / a gentian—", the particulars can be touched, and seen, the sharp edges, the "asp" of "wasps", and the blue flowers, soft, of the gentian, "something / immediate, open", immediate and open, the particulars move along, instantaneous, poof, poof, before your eyes; for the shifts of the poem, between the anticipation and the realization, open up possib i l i t i e s of perception, and the particulars are there, right there, for you to see.  The rhythm of the words, and of the  perceptions themselves, the stop and start, as in "A Sort of a Song": and the writing be of words, slow and quick, sharp to strike, quiet to wait, sleepless. CLP, 7. creates a structure of possible meanings, and movements, a l right, you can go this way or this way or  to bring the  reader to the point where he can look in to the gaps in the poem. So, in the third section, we find the same kind of shifts, "scissors, a lady's", but i t i s also the "lady's / eyes—", and they are waking.  For i t i s "open // scissors",  and open eyes, "open" and "scissors" widely separated to  dislodge the mind already made up, the attention "loosened". "Something / ...open", an open poem, open flower, or scissors, to cut through and to gently (as a gentian) open: The harriers which keep the feet from the dance are the same which in a dream paralyze the effort to escape and hold us powerless in the track of some murderous pursuer. Pant and struggle but you cannot move. The birth of the imagination is like waking from a nightmare. Never does the night seem so beneficent. SE, 18. And so, wakened, he steps into the dance, "centrifugal, centripetal", the eye's circle and the circle made by the dancers," "they go round and / around" (CLP, 11), like children, seeing for the f i r s t time ever. The variation, or dissonance, "leads to discovery", just as illness or "defeat" may do; so, in "The Descent": No defeat is made up entirely of defeat—since the world i t opens is always a place formerly unsuspected. A world lost, a world unsuspected, beckons to new places and no whiteness (lost) i s so white as the memory of whiteness PB, 73. The new world, "formerly / unsuspected", is found, or invented, as Williams says in "To Daphne and Virginia": A new world is only a new mind.  And the mind and the poem are a l l apiece. PB, 76. It i s a world open to possibility, as Madame Curie's discovery was, or Darwin's, who "opened our eyes / to the gardens of the world, / as they closed them." (PB, 167).  Who  are they? They are "Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who by divulging the secrets of the atomic bomb made man hostage to i t s destruction." ^ 1  That i s , the possibility they chose i s the  opposite of Madame Curie's, not pregnant but deathlike, destroying the possibility of l i f e . Or, the new world is America, and they are the Puritans, the ones who brought their religion with them, who were afraid to come in contact with i t , i t s seductive grandeur; so they drew back from i t , hid behind their preconceptions, and effectively closed their senses to i t . So, in "Cotton Mather's Wonders of the Invisible World" (LAG, 8l-10U) they, the good Puritans, fearful for the stability of their careful l i f e , k i l l off those (they called them witches) who partook of the real "wonders", the magic possibilities of that world. But there were others, such as Daniel Boone whose "jfhole soul, with greatest devotion, was given to the New World." (IAG_, 139).  Or Pere Sebastian Rasles, a Jesuit missionary  "^Jerome Mazzaro, Of Love, Abiding Love (Buffalo, Intrepid Press, 1970), p.50.  N.Y.:  who l i v e d w i t h t h e I n d i a n s , and whose p e r c e p t i o n o f t h e new world  a l l o w e d him " t o he p o s i t i v e , t o he p e c u l i a r , t o be  s u r e , generous, b r a v e — T O MARRY, t o t o u c h — . . . n o t  to s t e r i 121).  l i z e , t o draw back, t o f e a r , t o d r y up, t o r o t . " (JAG, Or,  i n " D e d i c a t i o n f o r a P l o t o f Ground" (CEP,  171-172),  commemorates "the l i v i n g presence o f / Emily D i c k i n s o n  Williams  Well-  come", h i s E n g l i s h grandmother", who "grubbed t h i s e a r t h w i t h her own hands," fought t o s t a y , and won, w e l l named and w e l l come t o t h e new world;  and t h e poem ends w i t h a warning:  I f you c a n b r i n g nothing t o t h i s but your c a r c a s s , keep o u t .  place  A c a r c a s s i s j u s t a t h i n g t o be got r i d o f .  But when M r s .  Wellcome d i e d , W i l l i a m s w r i t e s i n "The L a s t Words o f my E n g l i s h Grandmother" (CEP,  kk3-kkh)  t  her death i s n o t a " p a s s i n g away",  but a l a s t a c t and a new engagement:  What a r e a l l those f u z z y - l o o k i n g t h i n g s out t h e r e ? T r e e s ? W e l l , I'm t i r e d o f them and r o l l e d her head away.  And  Pere R a s l e s '  " f i n e sense, blossoming,  thriving,  opening, r e v i v i n g " , i s i n t h e s p i r i t o f t h e new world, t h e openness o f h i s v i s i o n , and W i l l i a m s ' t o o . A l l a r e s i g n s o f the l i f e o f t h e man, and h i s l o v e f o r t h e I n d i a n " i s an affirmation, i t i s alive."  R a s l e s was "a g r e a t MAI.  ...a m o r a l source not reckoned w i t h , p e c u l i a r l y  (...)  sensitive  and  d a r i n g i n i t s c l o s e embrace o f n a t i v e t h i n g s . "  brace i s t o t a l , i n c l u s i v e ,  em-  an a c t o f l o v e , a p e n e t r a t i o n t o  the i n n e r p a r t s , i n t i m a t e , and i s no d i f f e r e n t brace a t t h e b e g i n n i n g  That  from t h e em-  o f S p r i n g and A l l :  In t h e i m a g i n a t i o n , we a r e from h e n c e f o r t h (so l o n g as you read) l o c k e d i n a f r a t e r n a l embrace, t h e c l a s s i c c a r e s s o f author and r e a d e r . We a r e one. Whenever I say • I I mean a l s o ' y ° ' ' d so, t o g e t h e r , as one, we s h a l l begin. 1  u  A  n  THE DANCE AS MEASURE  In  "An E s s a y on Leaves o f G r a s s " W i l l i a m s says t h a t :  V e r s e s , i n E n g l i s h , a r e f r e q u e n t l y spoken o f as meaures. I t i s a f o r t u n a t e d e s i g n a t i o n as i t g i v e s u s , i n l o o k i n g a t them, t h e i d e a o f e l a p s e d time. We are r e minded t h a t t h e o r i g i n o f our v e r s e was t h e d a n c e — ^ and even i f i t had not been' t h e d'ance, t h e h e a r t when i t i s s t i r r e d has i t s m u l t i p l e b e a t s , and v e r s e a t i t s most impassioned s e t s t h e h e a r t v i o l e n t l y b e a t i n g . But as t h e h e a r t p i c k s up we a l s o b e g i n t o count. F i n a l l y , the measure f o r each language and environment i s a c c e p ted. 2  Measure, i n t h e a r c h a i c sense o f a dance, as "to t r e a d a meas u r e " , i s t h e shape o r p a t t e r n o f t h a t dance movement. man P a u l c a l l s measure  Sher-  "the c o n t r o l l i n g f e a t u r e o f t h e dance".  What he makes c l e a r , and r i g h t l y s o , i s t h a t the measure " i s determined by t h e o r g a n i c q u a l i t y o f the t h i n g p e r c e i v e d and, i n t u r n , determines t h e movement, and form, o f t h e poem."  Cf. F o c i l l o n : "Language, f i r s t e x p e r i e n c e d by the whole body and mimed i n t h e dance, was a l s o formed by t h e hands." L i f e o f Forms, p.68  2 From Leaves o f Grass One Hundred Years A f t e r , ed. M i l t o n Hindus ( S t a n f o r d , 1955), pp.22-31. R e p r i n t e d i n Whitman: A C o l l e c t i o n o f C r i t i c a l E s s a y s , ed. Roy Harvey Pearce (Englewood C l i f f s , N.J., 1962), pp.147. The Music o f S u r v i v a l ,  p.75  Williams suggests that, l i k e the " f o l k " dance, there i s a measure which i s indigenous to "each language and environment"; so, i n Asphodel, That Greeny Flower, he speaks of the voyage of Columbus to America:  How the world opened i t s eyes! It was a flower upon which A p r i l had descended from the skies! How b i t t e r a disappointment! In a l l , t h i s led mainly to the deaths I have suffered. For there had been kindled more minds than that of the discoverers and set dancing to a measure, a new measure! Soon l o s t . The measure i t s e l f has been l o s t and we suffer f o r i t . We come to our deaths in silence. The bomb speaks. PB,  167-168.  The bomb i s the b i t t e r f r u i t of that flower.  Other minds  were not "kindled", men l o s t the magic power of speech.  So,  to "come to our deaths / i n s i l e n c e " i s not to act, or dance, as Mrs. Wellcome i n her l a s t words did dance, but to be dragged there by the voice of the bomb.  For something  vrent wrong, the "new measure" was "soon l o s t " , soon after the Europeans arrived, because they did not know what i t was, or were too a f r a i d or too clumsy to understand i t .  The measure was there, before the "discoverers" found America, born of the new world, just as Tenochtitlan flowered there, "spread i t s dark l i f e upon the earth of a new world, rooted there, sensitive to i t s richest beauty, but so completely removed from those foreign contacts which harden and protect, that at the very breath of conquest i t vanished." (IAG, 32).  The "foreign contacts", like the foreign bodies  that take over when one i s i n a state of disease, might have led to new discoveries, even i f Tenochtitlan, "sensitive to its richest beauty", had perished; but the chance was lost, the "foreign contacts" were not "whole" men, willing to step wholly into the dance.  That measure, of the new world, was  native, and, in some sense, organic, to do with the rhythms of seasons, the flowers that might grow there, and the perceptions of the man who was able to see, as the Indians saw, what was there before him; to shield one's eyes behind religion or law, imported from Europe, was not only to f a i l to see the measure, but to destroy i t . So the man whose eyes are open looks and sees, and "taught by the largeness of his imagination to feel every form which he sees moving within himself, he must prove the truth of this by expression." (SA,27).  To go back to a much-  repeated point, Williams writes i n a letter to Kay Boyle; See above, p.oU.  "Poetry is creation of new form—" (SL, 134), and in his "Prologue to Kora in Hell": "Nothing i s good save the (SE, 21..).  new."  And, at the same time, not to be forgotten: "No  thing can grow unless i t taps into the s o i l . " (Au, 334).  It  is to make, of the materials that are there, like Shaker furniture, "of white pine, applewood, birch—what they had" (Au, 334), "totally uninfluenced by anything but the necessity, the total worth of the thing i t s e l f , the relationship of the parts to the whole," to make a thing which i s an expression of those necessities, the rhythms of the land and l i f e on i t , according to that measure, and so, a new thing. That new thing is not what Whitman accomplished in his poetry: Nature, the Rousseauists who foreshadowed Whiman, the imitation of the sounds of the sea per se, are a mistake. Poetry has nothing to do with that. It is not nature. It i s poetry. Whitman grew into senseless padding, bombast, bathos. His invention ended where i t began. SL, 135-136. What he did do was "the f i r s t thing that was necessary before we could look beyond the stalemate that was created by the classic measure...[viz.] to break i t apart." (SL, 331).  But he  ...was taken up, as were the leaders of the French Revolution before him with the abstract idea of freedom. It slopped over into a l l their thinking. But i t was an idea lethal to a l l order, particularly to that order which has to do with the poem. Whitman was right in  breaking our bounds but, having no v a l i d r e s t r a i n t s to hold him, went wild. SE, 339. Williams says that Imagism "was not s t r u c t u r a l : that was the reason for i t s disappearance." (SE, 283); and, i n "This F l o r i d a : 1924"., he writes, apparently i n f r u s t r a t i o n :  And we thought to escape rime by imitation of the senseless unarrangement of wild t h i n g s — the stupidest rime of a l l — CEP, 330. Much l a t e r , he says i n "Measure: — a loosely assembled essay on poetic measure" that: "We now know that there i s no such thing as free verse. terms."5  That i s no more than a contradiction i n  So, Williams' objective i s to f i n d a new  classic  measure, an American c l a s s i c : There w i l l be none u n t i l we invent i t . Almost everything I do i s of no more interest to me than the technical addition i t makes toward the discovery of a workable metric i n the new mode. SL, 287. thus, Paterson i s , among other things, "a reply to Greek and Latin with the bare hands" (P, 10), to be a model f o r , perhaps, "a new language, an unnamed language which Whitman could not  Spectrum, I I I , i i i  ( F a l l 1959), 155.  control....a new language akin to the New World"." In his essay "Notes Apropos 'Free Verse'", Robert Creeley discusses the notion.of measure in terms not of "assumed senses of literary style", where order, as often as: not, means how are you going to f i t that into an octave and sestet,  7  but of the "basic activity of poetry".  8  That i s , i t is  as poet he talks of these things, as well as, as reader, and the poet i s the man to bend your ear towards.  Creeley stresses  the root sense of verse as "a line, furrow, turning  —  vertere, to turn....", so that a poem, a "free verse" poem, "'turns' upon an occasion intimate with, in fact, the issue of, i t s own nature rather than to an abstract decision of 'form' taken from a prior instance."  9  In the light of that, Williams' poem "The Farmer" can be seen as a description of that "turning", the farmer's previously ploughed f i e l d , with a l l the turns laid out from last year, as opposed to the poet's unprepared ground, in_ which he must discover (or invent) the shape of his harvest, 6 Whitman: A Collection,pp.150, 151.  7  Note Williams' dislike of the sonnet form; as he wrote to James Laughlin: "Order is what is discovered after the fact, not a l i t t l e piss pot for us a l l to urinate into - and c a l l ourselves satisfied." (SL, 214). 8 A Quick Graph: Collected Notes and Essays, ed. Donald Allen (San Francisco: Four Seasons Foundation, 1970), p.57. g Ibid., p.56.  the poem.  It i s also a demonstration, or enactment, of that  process, as the poem "turns" in the f i e l d of i t s composition, and the lines find their shape in the contours of the experience, the poet's experience, as the poem comes to he (to be is to breathe) under his hands. Creeley suggests a useful parallel i n the improvised jazz run, where the music i s not bounded by a written score; as, for example, in "Shoot i t Jimmy!" " x(  >  :  Our orchestra is the cat's nuts— Banjo jazz with a nickelplated amplifier to soothe the savage beast— Get the rhythm That sheet stuff 's a lot a cheese. Man gimme the key and lemme l o o s e — I make 'em crazy with my harmonies— Shoot i t Jimmy Kbbody Nobody else See Vivienne Koch, William Carlos Williams (Norfolk, Conn/: New Directions, 1950), pp.51-53, for an account of the reaction of an English critic to this poem.  but me— They can't copy i t CEP, 269.  The improvised run moves in a realm of possibilities, the limits of which are, for Jimmy, a key to work in, and a rhythm to work around.  One sound leads to, or from, another,  each one chosen, or appearing, according to the moment of the artist's imagination.  It is no different in a dance move-  ment, where each position, or move, leads to, and from, another; and the act of moving involves a choice, however far i t may seem to be from the dancer's conscious mind, to choose what move from the range that is possible, and to move i t .  This  is simply composition by field."''"'' Jimmy's voice in the poem, and the voice of the poet, imitate the jazz run, "Man / gimme the key // and lemme loose—"; but i t is not "wild", as Whitman's was — i t can "soothe // the savage beast—"; for when a piece of music i s good, i t is described as "tight" — i t is not random. In fact, as Richard Grossinger points out i n "The Doctrine of Signatures", "any attempt at randomness is countered by the fact that no condition is random, that any action or thought 12 is instantly textual."  So the context, which has the root  ^"Cf. p.62 above. 1 2  I o , 5 (1968?), p.13.  sense of a woven pattern,  limits the possibilities of notes  and sounds; none of them will he random, or "free" in any abstract or absolute sense. And the shape that results, i f the man be good and his music tight, i s measure. Williams lived through what he called "a formative time whose duty i t is to lay bare the essentials" (SL, 133), and to discover the forms by which men could live and create. But the world he lived in had lost the knowledge of any unifying standards by which anything, verse or morals, could be measured.  He wrote in a letter to John Holmes:  What shall we say more of the verse that is to be l e f t behind by the age we live in i f i t does not have some of the marks the age has made upon us, its poets? The traumas of today, God knows, are plain enough upon our minds. Then how shall our- poems escape? They should be horrible things, those poems. To the classic muse their bodies should appear to be covered with sores. They should be hunchbacked, limping. And yet our poems must show how we have struggled with than to measure and control them. And we must SUCCEED even while we succumb.... 1  SL, 315-316. Focillon argues in The Life of Forms in Art that the artist must find in the rough material of the world the forms of See p.10 above. Cf. Symbnds on "choliambi"; "the harmony, which subsists between crabbed verses and the distorted subjects with which they dealt—the vices and perversions of humanity—". (P, 53)-. . ll+  h i s c r e a t i o n ; and the converse, that the perceiver f i n d i n the forms evidence of t h e i r source, that rough m a t e r i a l , "the marks the age has made upon us".  And t h i s shaping, with the  hands, or eye, or ear, i s c r e a t i o n — new f o r m — " .  "Poetry i s c r e a t i o n of  So, to measure: 'measure serves f o r us as the  key: we can measure between objects; t h e r e f o r e , we know that they e x i s t . " (SL, 331). To measure i s to hold the t h i n g i t s e l f i n the hand, t o hold i t long enoughto say, there i t is! —  before i t i s gone again; i t i s the struggle to hold oneself  and a world whole when we are devastated and threatened every day, because there was no way t o say what we wanted t o say: It i s d i f f i c u l t to get the news from poems yet men d i e miserably every day for l a c k of what i s found there.  PB, 1 6 1 - 1 6 2 . and so "We come to our deaths // i n s i l e n c e . / The bomb speaks." (PB, 1 6 8 ) . Williams found a measure that worked, for h i s w r i t i n g , l a t e i n h i s l i f e , a f l e x i b l e measure, which takes i n t o a c count the v a r i a b i l i t y of the modern world, as, f o r example, 15  i t i s expressed i n E i n s t e i n ' s theory o f r e l a t i v i t y .  It first  appears i n the passage i n Paterson (Book Two, Part I I I ) , beginning "the descent beckons / as the ascent beckoned", 15  S e e , f o r example, SE, 2 8 3 , and SL, 3 3 2 & 3 3 5 .  published separately in The Desert Music and Other Poems and in 16  Pictures from Brueghel- as "The Descent" (PR, 73-74).  This  measure i s characterized by the three-part line, and the "variable foot" used to measure i t , and many of the later poems (Asphodel is a notable example) are written in i t . Williams explains the working of the line in a letter to Richard Eberhart (SL, 325-327), and various c r i t i c s , John 17 Thirlwall i s one,  have written about i t .  But the theory of i t must always give way to the real thing, the poem i t s e l f .  For the theory never can account for  the result, and no good poet follows a set of rules, even his own rules, without variation.  As Williams says in the Spectrum  essay: In a l l iambics in worthy hands there lurks a triple beat that transforms them into anapests when they are read with a subtle understanding of their true nature. The understanding poet can take advantage of this when i t suits his purposes. (...) It has made for variation in the measure which hides from the ear, giving the beat of the heart i t s e l f , which is complex and never ^g merely plodding, as the man himself in his deeper nature. Those complexities of rhythm and measure, always to some degree variable, defy codification; i f the poem works, then there is no more to say — as Pound puts i t : "LISTEN to the l6r  'See I WW, 80-83, for an account of the poem.  17 See "Ten Years of a New Rhythm", PB, 183-184, 18  "Measure", pp. 137, 138.  sound that i t makes." In "The Poem", then, the rhythms of perception measure out  the world; and there is —something immediate, open scissors, a lady's eyes - waking centrifugal, centripetal  for in the space between "open" and "scissors", or "a lady's" and "eyes", is a space in which your eye and ear and mind turn to follow the poet's turning —  he holds and turns i t  in his hand for you, measuring i t out, he "gets the measure" of i t , not like Prufrock saying "I have measured out my l i f e with coffee spoons," but holds his, and your, attention, to the (and  "particulars" of the actual world, there, before your his) eyes. So, in Asphodel, the line moves in triads, each section  a foot step,and a perception, and the attention follows, turning here  and here  as the eye and ear  turn:  Only the imagination i s real! I have declared i t time without end. If a man die i t is because death has f i r s t possessed his imagination. PB, 179ABC of Reading (lew York: New Directions, I960), p.201.  Ill  The man of imagination w i l l step into the dance, or engage the rose.  "It is at the edge of the / petal that love waits",  and so, i t is to the edge we go to find i t , to the veryedge: But love and the imagination are of a piece, swift as the light to avoid destruction. PB, 179.  The act, of love, of engagement, of penetration, of the dance, is the act of the man alive.  His senses are awake,  ("The birth of the imagination is like waking from a nightmare.") and he notices: "Hark! It is the music! Whence does i t come? What! Out of the ground?" (KH, 13).  It i s the ground-  music of existence, and i f he is alive, he dances: they prance or go openly toward the wood's edges round and around in rough shoes and farm breeches mouths agape Oya! kicking up their heels PB, 10. If the man be a dancer, he dances; i f a poet, he follows the dancing movements of the world and imitates i t in words:  So a dance is a thing in i t s e l f . It is the music that dances hut i f there are words then there are two dancers, the words pirouetting with the music. KH,  32.  The poem, also "a thing i n i t s e l f " , moves in, over, through, against that music: The words of the thing twang and twitter to the gentle rocking of a high-laced hoot and the silk above that. The trick of the dance i s in following now the words, allegro, now the contrary beat of the glossy leg. KH,  43.  So now: Turn back t i l l I t e l l you a puzzle: What i s i t i n the stilled face of an old menderman and winter not far off and a darky parts his wool, and wenches wear of a Sunday? It's a sparrow with a crumb in his beak dodging wheels and clouds crossing two ways. KH,  36.  for Now is the time in spite of the "wrong note" I love you. My heart i s innocent. And this the f i r s t (and last) day of the world The birds twitter now anew but a design surmounts their twittering. It is a design of a man that makes them twitter. It i s a design. PB,  82.  So, to dance, as the "happy genius" of "Danse Russe": dance naked, grotesquely before my mirror waving my shirt round my head and singing softly to myself: "I am lonely, lonely, I was horn to he lonely, I am best so!" CEP, 148. To dance, to the music of "The Botticellian Trees", where "In summer the song / sings i t s e l f // above the muffled words—" (CEP, 8l). For, in "Overture to a Dance of Locomotives", "The dance is sure." (CEP, 195), as sure as can be, "dancing, dancing as may be credible." (PB, 33). To conclude: there are perhaps three conclusions — the f i r s t is from "The Desert Music": Only the counted poem, to an exact measure: to imitate, not to copy nature, not to copy nature NOT, prostrate, to copy nature but a dance! to dance two and two with him— PB, 109. and the second is the last lines of the same poem: And I could not help thinking of the wonders of the brain that hears that music and of our s k i l l sometimes to record i t . PB, 120.  and, at the very end, obdurate, comes the poem (poet), as always,., and i t (he) i s "covered with sores.. .hunchbacked, limping", to dance, whichever way he (it) can, for We know nothing and can know nothing but the dance, to dance to a measure contrapuntally, Satyrically, the tragic foot. P, 278.  L i s t o f Works C i t e d  Barrett, William. Books, 1962.  I r r a t i o n a l Man. New York: Doubleday Anchor  C r e e l e y , Robert. A Quick Graph: C o l l e c t e d Notes and Essays, ed..Donald A l l e n . San F r a n c i s c o : Four Seasons Foundat i o n , 1970. Dewey, John.  1934.  A r t as E x p e r i e n c e .  New York: Minton, B a l c h & Co.,  D i j k s t r a , Bram. The H i e r o g l y p h i c s o f a New Speech. P r i n c e t o n , N.J.: P r i n c e t o n U n i v e r s i t y Press, 1969. Duncan, Irma. Duncan Dancer. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan U n i v e r s i t y Press, 1965. Duncan, Isadora. My L i f e . r i g h t , 1944.  Black & Gold ed., New York: L i v e -  Eliade, Mircea. Myth and R e a l i t y , t r a n s . W i l l a r d R. T r a s k . New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1968. Fenollosa, Ernest. "The Chinese W r i t t e n Character a s a Medium f o r Poetry", i n Prose Keys t o Modern Poetry, ed. K a r l Shapiro, (136-154) New York: Harper & Row, 1962. F o c i l l o n , H e n r i . The L i f e o f Forms i n A r t , trans.- C h a r l e s Beecher Hogan and George K u b l e r . New York: Wittenborn, S c h u l t z , Inc., 1 9 4 8 . F u r b e r g , Jon S t a n l e y . P r i n c i p l e s o f I n t e r a c t i o n between Romantic Poems and Reader. D i s s . , U n i v . o f B r i t i s h Columb i a , A p r i l 1970. Grossinger, Richard.  (1968?), 6-14.  Kazantakis,  Nikos.  "The D o c t r i n e o f S i g n a t u r e " .  Zorba t h e Greek.  London: Faber,  Koch, V i v i e n n e . W i l l i a m C a r l o s W i l l i a m s . New D i r e c t i o n s , 1950.  Io, 5  1961.  N o r f o l k , Conn.:  Malinowski, Bronislaw. "The Power of Words i n Magic", i n h i s Argonauts of the Western P a c i f i c , 428-463. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1932. . "The Problem o f Meaning i n P r i m i t i v e Languages", Supp. I to The Meaning o f Meaning, C.K. Ogden & I.A. R i c h a r d s , 296-336. 8th ed., New York: H a r c o u r t , Brace & World, 1946. Mazzaro, Jerome. Of Love, A b i d i n g t r e p i d Press, 1970.  Love.  B u f f a l o , N.Y.:  In-  Miller, J. H i l l i s . "Introduction" to William Carlos Williams: A C o l l e c t i o n o f C r i t i c a l Essays, 1-14. Englewood C l i f f s , N.J.: P r e n t i c e - H a l l , Inc., 1966. Olson, C h a r l e s . Foundation,  P r o p r i o c e p t i o n . San F r a n c i s c o : Four Seasons  1965•  . S e l e c t e d W r i t i n g s of C h a r l e s Olson, ed. Robert C r e e l e y . New York: New D i r e c t i o n s , 1966. Patchen, Kenneth. The J o u r n a l o f A l b i o n M o o n l i g h t . New D i r e c t i o n s , 196l. P a u l , Sherman. The Music of S u r v i v a l . Univ. o f I l l i n o i s Press, 1968. Pound, E z r a . ABC . don: .  o f Reading.  L i t e r a r y Essays Faber, i960.  ~l k b^r ~ 13Ur^ :  r  r  T.S.  York:  Urbana, Chicago,  York: New  Directions,  of E z r a Pound, ed. T.S.  S e l e c t e d Poems, ed.  don :  New  New  London:  i960.  Eliot.  Lon-  E l i o t . Paperbound ed.,  Lon-  i  Quartermain, P e t e r . "On 545 seminar, U n i v .  Paterson". Paper r e a d b e f o r e E n g l i s h of B r i t i s h Columbia, March, 1967.  Stevens, W a l l a c e . From Adagia, i n Prose Keys to Modern ed. K a r l S h a p i r o , 155-160. New York: Harper & Row,  Poetry,  1962.  . " P r e f a c e " t o W i l l i a m s ' C o l l e c t e d Poems, 1921-1931, i n W i l l i a m C a r l o s W i l l i a m s : A C o l l e c t i o n of C r i t i c a l Essays, ed. J . H i l l i s M i l l e r , 62-64. Englewood C l i f f s , N.J.: P r e n t i c e - H a l l , I n c . , 1966.  Tallman, Warren. "Robert Creeley's Rimethought". couver, B.C.), 33 (January 4, 1966), 2-10.  TISH (Van-  . "Williams' Perception in 'The Accident'". TISH (Vancouver, B.C.), 43 (no date or pagination). Tanner, Tony. The Reign of Wonder. Cambridge University Press, 1965. Thirlwall, John. "Ten Years of a New Rhythm", closing note to Pictures from Brueghel. New York: New Directions, 1962. 183-184.  Wagner, Linda Welshimer. The Poems of William Carlos Williams. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1964. Wallace, Emily Mitchell. A Bibliography of William Carlos Williams. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan Univ. Press, I968. Weatherhead, A. Kingsley. The Edge of the Image. Seattle & London: Univ. of Washington Press, 1967. Whorf, Benjamin Lee. "An American Indian Model of the Universe". International Journal of American Linguistics, Williams, William Carlos. The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams. New York: New Directions, 1967. The Collected Earlier Poems of William Carlos Williams. New York: New Directions, 1951. . The Collected Later Poems of William Carlos Williams. Revised ed., New York: New Directions, 1963. . "An Essay on Leaves of Grass", in Leaves of Grass One Hundred Years After, ed. Milton Hindus, 22-31. Stanford, 1955. Reprinted in Whitman: A Collection of C r i t i c a l Essays, ed. Roy Harvey Pearce, 146-154. Englewood C l i f f s , N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1962. .  The Farmer's Daughters. New York: New Directions,  1961.  .  In the American Grain. New York: New Directions, 1956.  . I Wanted to Write a Poem, ed. Edith Beal. Boston: Beacon Press, 1958. _. Kora in Hell: Improvisations. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1957.  Williams, William Carlos. "Measure: — a loosely assembled essay on poetic measure". Spectrum, III, i i i (Fall 1959), 131-157.  .  A Novelette and Other Prose (1921-1931). Toulon  France: TO Publishers, 1932. .  Paterson. New York: New Directions, 1963.  .  Pictures from Brueghel. New York: New Directions,  1962.  . Selected Essays of William Carlos Williams, New York: Random House, 1954. . The Selected Letters of William Carlos Williams, ed. John C. Thirlwall, New York: McDowell, Obolensky, 1957. . Yes, Mrs. Williams: A Personal Record of My Mother. New York: McDowell, Obolensky, 1959Winters, Yvor. 1943.  In Defense of Reason.  Denver: Alan Swallow,  


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items