When you think William Carlos Williams, you think memorable name. You think Paterson, New Jersey. You think poetry slash doctor who wrote the compelling short story, “The Use of Force.”
And assuredly you think of the little-poem-that-could, “The Red Wheelbarrow,” where white chickens are forever pecking around a red wheelbarrow glinting with rain. Or maybe the sweetness of the simple but satisfying “This Is Just to Say,” where plums remain “so sweet / and so cold” in the timeless ice box of memory.
But such notoriety is no reason to skip reading deeper into a famous poet’s work. There are surprises. There are lesser-known and lesser-regarded works that may resonate with you, a poetry reader with your own discerning tastes.
“No ideas but in things,” WCW famously reminded us when he was in teacher mode. If you keep it simple and if you keep a sharp focus on “things” that have names, you can imply ideas that hide behind them.
By way of example, “Late for Summer Weather” is a thing de force (French for “great example”) with its objects (mostly clothes) and its colors (but no wheelbarrows in the rain).
It also features a most unusual, for the often dour-looking Williams, ending line. Shall we, then?
Late for Summer Weather
by William Carlos Williams
He has on
an old light grey Fedora
She a black beret
He a dirty sweater
She an old blue coat
that fits her tight
Grey flapping pants
Red skirt and
broken down black pumps
Fat Lost Ambling
the upper town they kick
their way through
fallen maple leaves
crisp as dollar bills
Nothing to do. Hot cha!
Ah. The beauty of working hard at doing nothing! The beauty of a straight neck looking around at nature as opposed to down at a cellphone like some bent Neanderthal training for a future Humpback Olympics. And mostly the beauty of a town called Fat Lost Ambling, New Jersey (Exit 157 on the Jersey Turnpike).
One thought on “Hot Cha!”
“Hot cha” sounds stupid to me, dated and silly, like shouting “23 skidoo!”
A great book discussing Williams and free verse is “Free Verse: an Essay on Prosody” by Charles Hartman. I loved this book since it re-inforced every thought I’ve ever had and gave me new ones about the unique techniques employed by free verse poets.