The poet William Carlos Williams stands apart as one of the most influential poets of modern times. Williams’ poetic voice composes a unique picture in which the reader is immersed in the poet’s world of sensory perception. Williams believed that everything in our lives, no matter how simple, can be organized into poetic verse.
Through Williams’ rather simplistic straightforward language and observations he speaks directly to ordinary individuals. Williams’ poetry utilizes objectivism to craft the poem into an object and to emphasize the action of perception.The poems, “Poem,” “The Great Figure,” and “Spring and All” are each representative of Williams’ ability to craft language and imagery into a lucid moment of perception. In Williams’ poetic world, the act of observation is critical in arousing the senses and imagination of the reader.
Williams’ poetry speaks in a unique voice while embracing the basis of traditional American poetry. The poet uses straight forward diction to convey both observation and action. In his “Poem,” Williams uses perception to develop and describe the simple motion of a cat descending from the top of a room.Visually, similar to many of William’s poems, the structure appears choppy.
The visual pattern of this poem is written in four three-line stanzas. The apparent simplicity of “Poem” draws attention to essential details that are a critical part of the poem. The structure of this poem parallels the descent of the cat. “Poem” lacks punctuation, another common feature in Williams’ body of work.
By removing punctuation, the flow of the poem conveys the motion of a cat in a series of fluid movements. When read aloud, each stanza represents a frame of the ongoing action.Each stanza is similar to the individual frames of a motion picture. When pieced together, the stanzas create a descriptive sense of motion.
Williams uses enjambed lineation in order to increase the pace at which the poem is read, further emphasizing the action of movement. Through a combination of lineation and descriptive language, each calculated movement of the cat is illustrated. With a few exceptions, the poem primarily follows the form of accentual-syllabic verse. The majority of lines are composed of three syllables, most often two unstressed and one stressed.
Using a combination of structural technique and descriptive language, Williams emphasizes the action of visual perception. Similarly, in Williams’ poem, “The Great Figure,” he reinforces the idea of brevity over elaboration in order to draw the reader into a moment of pure objectivism. Williams employs a visually disjointed poetic pattern to express the minute details of an ordinary scene. Between line six and line nine, Williams places single words as enjambed lines.
The power of each word is emphasized by its solitary line placement. The lines “firetruck,” “moving,” and “unheeded” each ends with mute sounds (Williams 1).The sound at the end of each line creates a hard stop, further emphasizing the solitary power of each word. Additionally, “moving” and “tense” are placed at the center of the poem each shaping both the motion and mood of the poetic landscape (Williams 1).
The structure of “The Great Figure” carries the observant reader swiftly through each component of the scene. The reader’s attention is drawn between different objects by using prepositions. An example of prepositional use to direct attention occurs in the line “on a red” (Williams 1).When using the objectivist style, the perception of the poet is emphasized by controlling where the reader places their attention.
The poem begins with the two lines “Among the rain/and lights” (Williams 1). This simple description draws the reader into a moment of objectivist perception. The poem increases in pace as it progresses, mimicking the motion of the rumbling fire truck. Williams primarily uses visual perception to shape his poems, but in “The Great Figure,” he harnesses the additional sense of sound to draw the reader into the role of observer.
The lines, “to gong clangs,” “siren howls,” and “wheels rumbling” are all blunt but detailed descriptions that are able to engage the auditory sense of the reader. Finally, the poem concludes with an end-stopped line. The punctuation at the end of “The Great Figure” creates the appearance of the poem as a continuous sentence or idea. In this instance, Williams crafts the action of the poem to follow the observation of movement and sound echoing through the night.
Williams crafts his poetry in order to emphasize the perception of objects. He focuses on engagement of the senses, as opposed to crafting a poem based on rhetoric.Williams’ poem are not argumentative instead they place the reader in the objectivist perspective, and often there is no clear resolution at the conclusion of a poem. In “Spring and All,” Williams directs the reader’s attention from the cold bleakness of winter to the reawakening of the natural world in spring.
The form of the poem follows the progression of time as the world of the poem is in a state of transition. The first stanza contains words ending in mute sounds, for example, “mottled,” “cold,” “broad,” and “dried” (Williams 4). The sound of each word creates an abrupt mute that stops the breath.Williams crafts the language of “Spring and All” to paint the composition of the scene.
Williams’ words act like pigments, when linked together composing the picturesque clarity of the scene. Williams develops descriptions by focusing the observer’s attention on descriptive minute details within the poem. The second stanza begins without any capitalization in contrast to the other stanzas, “patches of standing water/the scattering of tall trees” (Williams 4). Williams employs anthropomorphism to describe the natural world and breathe life into the scene.
The entire poem is rich in descriptive words for example, “purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy” (Williams 4). Similar to “The Great Figure,” Williams uses prepositions to link objects and descriptives, and to steer the reader’s attention. The lineation present in “Spring and All” is composed using enjambed lines to emphasize the specific detail within each line and alter the pace at which it is read. Through enjambed lineation, the essence of each object is isolated, “.
.. stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf/..
. objects are defined” (Williams 4).Williams’ distinct quality of poetic verse crafts a world rich in descriptive imagery. Each poem is crafted to engage and direct the attention of the reader through the world of objects.
The poems lack a distinct argument and there is no discernible resolution when they conclude. Instead of utilizing poetry to create rhetoric, Williams immerses the reader in a world where the key to understanding is perception. Williams’ poems are a collage of detail rich descriptions in which language and perception are key elements captivating the sensory perception of the reader.