14 June 2007

William Carlos Williams, Robert Creeley

[William Carlos Williams, 1923]

To Elsie

The pure products of America
go crazy —
mountain folk from Kentucky

or the ribbed north end of
with its isolate lakes and

valleys, its deaf-mutes, thieves
old names
and promiscuity between

devil-may-care men who have taken
to railroading
out of sheer lust of adventure —

and young slatterns, bathed
in filth
from Monday to Saturday

to be tricked out that night
with gauds
from imaginations which have no

peasant traditions to give them
but flutter and flaunt

sheer rags — succumbing without
save numbed terror

under some hedge of choke-cherry
or viburnum —
which they cannot express —

unless it be that marriage
with a dash of Indian blood

will throw up a girl so desolate
so hemmed round
with disease or murder

that she'll be rescued by an
agent —
reared by the state and

sent out at fifteen to work in
some hard-pressed
house in the suburbs —

some doctor's family, some Elsie —
voluptuous water
expressing with broken

brain the truth about us —
her great
ungainly hips and flopping breasts

addressed to cheap
and rich young men with fine eyes

as if the earth under our feet
an excrement of some sky

and we degraded prisoners
to hunger until we eat filth

while the imagination strains
after deer
going by fields of goldenrod in

the stifling heat of September
it seems to destroy us

It is only in isolate flecks that
is given off

No one
to witness
and adjust, no one to drive the car

[Robert Creeley, 1957]

I Know a Man

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking, — John, I

sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ’s sake, look
out where yr going.

The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Vol. 1: 1909-1939
Selected Poems


  1. Wow! a powerful poem from William Carlos Williams. I've taught the old standards to my high "The Red Wheelbarrow" and "This is Just to Say", discussing the Imagist movement (standard textbook stuff), but now I'm going to have to go back and re-read some more of his work.
    I hope things are going well for you. My wife and I had our baby in February. I hope you don't mind, I have a link for your blog attached to mine (I'm new to the blog scene, so just thought I would check with you)
    Take care!

  2. WCW is so vastly underrated (IMO) and this poem shows why. I love the Creeley poem too.