Sunday, September 29, 2013

ModPo 2013 #19 Breaking Glass: On Williams' "Lines"

Illustration by me.

William Carlos Williams, "Lines" (1921)

Leaves are graygreen,
the glass broken, bright green.


Like the poem discussion I watched before it (Pound's "In a Station of the Metro"), WCW's "Lines" is just two lines. Without that video, I wouldn't have seen the significance of the two different types of green (how imbued with meaning!) and also how that comma literally breaks breaks the second line. Also, I would have totally missed out on the organic/ the natural vs. the inorganic/ the manufactured and the significance of the title as a statement on the aesthetic of poetry.

Similar to his other poems, I would have wondered how this was a poem in the first place. Did this poem come with effort at all? Was the sparseness really intentional? For 1921, this was the new aesthetic. This was the revolution.

I see it as a "flipping off" of Walt Whitman, directly addressing the 52-canto "Song of Myself" strewn with leaves of grass with only two lines. Those leaves are graygreen. Here I am breaking the glass. Now this is a poem.

I find myself wondering if I have paid the price as a poet. Have I gone from the beginning to today with full consciousness of how poetry has evolved? Did Willimas, too, pay that price? Is there a price to pay after all? I feel like I'm in a museum looking at a piece, perhaps at this exact piece, wondering about the graygreen grass juxtaposed with this broken bottle that is bright green. Is this art? Did I understand what was going on? Would I understand it without that whole tradition which led to this breaking of tradition?

Well, for me at least, there is a price to pay. Having the position of humility and learning is, I think, the best route to take. Give me more!

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