This is a book review written a few years ago.  I was lucky enough to see Campbell read from this book at Moe’s in Berkeley. Only a handful of people were there for the reading, it was before the book was a finalist for the Pulitzer but still that’s the Bay Area, so many great poets coming through all the time means there are opportunities to see great poets in intimate settings.


Campbell McGrath has produced an ambitious project with his book XX: Poems For The Twentieth Century, a book that provides a literary experience well worth the effort of reading its full 222 pages.  McGrath’s collection is a sequence of poems for every year from 1900 to 2000 plus a epilogue for 2016, 102 poems in all. The poems themselves delve into the artistic, literary, musical, philosophical and technological aspects of the century. This is a book where we are asked to perceive the twentieth century as a river that McGrath has taken a dipper of material out for each year.  There is a chance feel to the flow of the historical subjects he is choosing, yet the overall experience is one of control and care. 


Continue reading “Touring The Twentieth Century With Campbell McGrath”



            I was aware of “The Red Wheelbarrow” of course, one of the most famous poems of the twentieth century, but I had not read any more of Williams.  As part of a reading for Brenda Hillman’s prosody and forms class in a Robert Hass section “Modernism and the Two Line Stanza” there was a suggested reading from the Spring and All of several poems.  I found the Collected Poems in the library, went to the section with Spring and All and was pleasantly surprised by what I found there.  I had been thinking about writing a hybrid work of prose and poetry for some time and here was a great example from 1923.  In addition, the work Williams was doing beyond just “The Red Wheelbarrow” was of interest in terms of structure and diction as well as other poetics.  And then the prose itself was rich and full of ideas around Williams’ theories on poetics.

            When I researched a bit I found out that the original book had not sold many copies, that the full prose had disappeared from any collection of Williams’ work until 1970. I decided I had to know more about this work, its impact on contemporary poetry and how it could influence my own work.

            The prose in Spring And All is a manifesto, an idiosyncratic explanation of Williams’ poetic theories and practice, interrupted by outbursts of poetry.  The poetry sometimes is a response to what has just been said in the prose or the prose responds sometimes to the poetry.  In order to understand what is going on I propose walking through what I see as a few of the key texts of Spring and All.
Continue reading “Lessons From William Carlos Williams Spring and All”