21 ene. 2009

I learned an important lesson early in my scholarly career. I was working on a paper in one of my first semesters in grad school on WCW and had the Collected Earlier Poems. (I still have this book, the sixth printing of the New Directions hardback which first appeared in 1966? I purchased it on August 28, 1977, when I had just turned 17. I had to special order it, and when it came I remember them calling me and telling me my book "about" William Carlos Williams had arrived. It cost 12.95, which was a lot of money for me.) The lesson is that the poems that appear in the book, attributed to particular collections, do not always belong to the collections where they appear. For example, in the section corresponding to the 1913 The Tempers, the best poems do not appear in the original book, but were later poems that were put there to make it seem that Williams was more advanced aesthetically than he appeared to be. "To Mark Anthony in Heaven," for example. I also learned that poems had other variants. For example, my paper was on the poem "The Jungle," and I went to the rare book room and looked at the original poem, which contained some additional lines, if I remember right.

Literary interpretation is as subjective as you want it to be, but there are also empirical facts. The ninety cents of sales tax I paid in 1977. If you want your reader to trust you, you should take steps to master the textual history of your material.