10 feb. 2009

I still remember vividly one of the first papers I wrote in Graduate School, for Al Gelpi's imagism class, in the fall of 1981. My thesis was that WCW had been seen as a mostly descriptive poet, but that this was wrong. Williams's poems were urgent speech acts, rhetorical arguments, not static descriptions. I placed emphasis on the "I must tell you," or the "so much depends" rather than on the thing described.

The poem I chose to analyze was "The Jungle," which I can still recall: "It is not the still weight of the trees..." I talked about how most of the poem was actually the negation of a description, hence had a rhetorical force, since the reality being described was meant to be held in suspended animation. It was, essentially, a negated cliché, leading to the final conclusion of the poem: "a girl waiting, / shy, brown, soft eyed / to lead you / upstairs sir." I loved how the poem ended with the words of the girl, without quotation marks.

I am amazed that I still recall this so well. I could probably even re-write it now from memory. It wouldn't be the same sentences, but it would be the same argument. What was good about it, I think, is that I had found something about which the existing consensus was obviously and outrageously wrong, and explained persuasively why this was the case, and why my view was more interesting and fruitful. How did I come up with something like this? Probably from reading Williams for many years before I even got to grad school, and trusting my own view more than the irritating people who thought of him as the purveyor of boring, static descriptions. Trusting my own irritation.

1 comentario:

Jordan dijo...

> Trusting my own irritation.

Repulsion: equal to attraction -- one of the laws of literary physics.

And yet, most writing from disgust and repulsion is itself repulsive.

The paper sounds spot on.