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

by William Carlos Williams

Other authors: A. Walton Litz (Editor), Christopher MacGowan (Editor)

Series: The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams (Volume 1)

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597334,922 (4.46)1
So that readers could more fully understand the extent of Williams' radical simplicity, all of his published poetry, excludingPaterson, was reissued in two definite volumes, of which this is the first.

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This was an incredible assembly of poems by the famous William Carlos Williams. There is much to like, enjoy, and explore here and the themes are various and radiating in their luminescence and their intensity. Overall, I think that anyone interested in poetry- at all, will enjoy this.

5 stars! ( )
  DanielSTJ | May 29, 2020 |
His earlier stuff, which might come as a surprise to people with only a casual knowledge of his work. ( )
  unclebob53703 | Feb 21, 2016 |
As it happened with Ezra Pound's poem "In a Station of the Metro", which was at first a thirty lines poem reduced finally to two verses, we are confronted by two versions of the same poem by Williams. In both cases, the second versions were reduced and condensed into something clear and straightforward as an image. And that is exactly what defines the Imagism Movement, to use language employing the exact, not nearly-exact, but THE EXACT word, without flourishing or decorative ornamental writing.

In the second version of Williams' "Young Woman at a Window" we can easily identify some propositions in the imagist manifesto:
- In contrast to lyrical poetry, we find a clear, honest and precise description of an image, it can almost be seen as a photograph. An instant captured by Williams and depicted in this free verse without conventional formal constraints. Actually, this could be an exact representation of what a Metapoem could be, its form, five stanzas of two lines, reminds me of another poem by Williams, "Between Walls", which can be read as a single line, but the conscious act of separating it into five different stanzas emphasises every word, making something new out of a domestic and common image.
- The repetition of some words, even of a whole line such as "her cheek", "her cheek on" gives a new cadence to the poem, and the use of the same structure - "her cheek", "her hand"- as if enumerating a list takes out all the possible lyricism of the picture.
- Another imagist trait is the lack of superfluous words, there are no linkers, only the necessary prepositions and almost no verbs which conveys a non-existent action; what we see is a static image with no movement, everything is still, like a snapshot. We could even frame it, or make a sculpture.
- Analysing the content of the poem:
This is a precise and concentrated description of a woman sitting to next to a window, because there is mention of glass and because the title of the poem says so, who is holding a child (her son?) in her lap. The child, though, is unaware of this woman’s disposition because he is concentrated on what’s going on outside this window, so he doesn’t realise that the woman is crying. And that is that, no indefinite ideas, no vague generalities or cliched symbols or grand subjects; only an intimate moment of domesticity portrayed in these few lines.

If we compare this second version of the poem to the first one, which could still be considered as imagist, we can find some "violations" to the propositions exposed in the manifesto.
- There are prepositions which locate the action. Words such as "while" or "there" imply a sense of time and of movement when the poem is supposed to present a static image.
- Presence of some superfluous words such as "with" or "who" not necessary to transmit what is being said here.
- There are some lines which give a kind of value to the text, "knows nothing of his theft", "who robs her", there is more possible interpretation in this poem than in the second version of it. Because whereas I know the woman is crying in the second poem (but I don't know why and maybe I don't care, I just want to describe the hard, clear and static image I'm seeing); I have a clue of what it might be about in the first version. It's the child's fault, he seems to have robbed her of something. Happiness? Youth? Freedom? So, the poem becomes more open and rich in feelings, which is opposed to what an imagist poem should do to the reader.

But then, let me finish by questioning whether it is possible to eliminate all value from this image, because even in the second reduced version, there is a sort of evocative description, almost nostalgic. A sad narrative. There are tears on cheeks, a child with his nose pressed to a glass, unaware of this woman's misery, looking out.
Only a captured, robbed instant? Only that?
How can one not be affected by this poem? How can one not wonder the reason of the tears? How can one not try to interpret its meaning? Only this questioning makes the imagist movement fail in its attempt to be only a transparent use of the language to describe a moment in time. At least for me.

Dolors Casas
October, 4th 2012 ( )
  Luli81 | Oct 5, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
William Carlos Williamsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Litz, A. WaltonEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
MacGowan, ChristopherEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed

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So that readers could more fully understand the extent of Williams' radical simplicity, all of his published poetry, excludingPaterson, was reissued in two definite volumes, of which this is the first.

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