Sunday, September 29, 2013

ModPo 2013 #20 Beauty in the Broken: On Williams' "Between Walls"

Image from

Between Walls

the back wings
of the

hospital where

will grow lie

In which shine
the broken

pieces of a green

- William Carlos Williams


Finding beauty in what is broken is really a modernist impulse. You won't really find it in traditional poetry. I find in the repeated mention of broken glass in Williams' poems an attempt to really flesh out this image of brokenness. One could read it as that: something is simply broken. But he imbues it with the color of growth, with the color of spring. In this poem, the broken green glass is the only thing that shines. 

I can almost imagine Dr. Williams leaning over the balcony of the back wings of the hospital looking for something to pin his focus on. He is looking for his focal point of meditation. And there, among the cinders, something mimics the stars. It is only a broken green bottle but it is a revelation. It is a moment of epiphany. 

This takes me back to my ars poetica. Poetry is a conversation but it is also a shared glimpse into something. It may be something new. It may be something beautiful. It is a view that prompts the writer to take the reader's hand. "Come, look!" the writer says. It will be worth it. No need to look up at the stars. It reminds me of Stevens' line on the thin men of Haddam. Do you not see what is at your feet? Stay grounded, here, between the hospital walls. Look down at the ground and find among the ashes what shines. It is an invitation to find in the ordinary, in the mundane, in the dullness, even in the ugliness...a brilliant moment to keep. 

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