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”