Mind, Mouth and Page – 34 (“Young Sycamore”)

Mind, Mouth and Page continues from here – Allen Ginsberg on William Carlos Williams

AG: Now the great poem on the tree. Remember, I kept saying, in order to describe one tree of all the trees on earth, to separate out that one tree that you want to describe, if you’re trying to write a song lyric, and you’re want to put something real sharp in that people will remember, or a poem, in order to get a visual image that people will remember, you have to have reliance on the specific detail that differs it from all other objects of its class, and his (William Carlos Williams’) most interesting tree, I think, is (the) “Young Sycamore”

Young Sycamore

I must tell you
this young tree
whose round and firm trunk
between the wet

pavement and the gutter
(where water
is trickling) rises

into the air with
one undulant
thrust half its height
and then

dividing and waning
sending out
young branches on
all sides –

hung with cocoons
it thins
till nothing is left of it
but two

eccentric knotted
bending forward
hornlike at the top.

And it’s all one fast notation. Actually, one or two breaths. Probably three breaths, I would say.

Well, maybe, one-two-three-four-five breaths, I guess. So I will try to read it again with five breaths according to his scoring [Allen reads the poem again] – That’s the right way. He’s given the scoring. There’s a little parenthesis which requires a breath (or two breaths). There’s a dash which requires another breath – “thrust half it’s height – dash” – and then another dash – “young branches/ on all sides – dash”. And then from “hung with cocoons” to “hornlike at the top”, it’s just one breath.

So there’s a lot going on in that. The stanzas are relatively even. Four-line stanzas, that is. The poem’s arranged into four lines each there…

“This is one that some of the painters like.” (William Carlos Williams)

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