Monday, September 30, 2013

ModPo 2013 #20 Bright Sweet Moment: On Williams' "This Is Just To Say"

Image from

This Is Just To Say

by William Carlos Williams
I have eaten 
the plums 
that were in 
the icebox 

and which 
you were probably 
saving for breakfast 

Forgive me 
they were delicious 
so sweet 
and so cold

Refrigerator magnet poetry. Honestly, what's wrong with that? It makes poetry an exercise for everyone. Isn't it a play of words and a conversation that is out of the ordinary? Another observation: this poem is very interesting because it's not a straight-out imagist poem. There is a bit of tension going on between the speaker and the reader who is addressed (the "you" in the poem). There is a fake apology that ends the poem that leaves a lot going on in the reader's imagination. 

First, I want to address turning a refrigerator message into a poem. I think it was timely. It captures the America of 1920 that was benefiting from ice boxes. It captures that a kind of marriage existed during that time. The imagist manifesto element that speaks into this poem is the absolute freedom to choose the subject matter. There is nothing too everyday, too quotidian to pick as a subject of the poem. It certainly isn't universal. That's what makes it so interesting. 

There is something interesting going on in the power play of the sexes in the poem. Was this a happy marriage? There is a levity in the fake apology. It is a kind of levity that only someone who is pretending to apologize would actually say in a note. I see a wide margin of "forgiveness" there. 

Lastly, like the poem, "Between Walls," I think this is a celebration of a little bright moment in the speaker's life. The sweet cold plums are ordinary things that can be taken for granted. But not in this poem. It is a moment of pure, unapologetic enjoyment and, if only for that, it is a glimpse of beauty in the suburban home. 

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