Williams, The Haiku, and the Natural Sequence

William Carlos Williams – Collected Poems – published by The Objectivist Press. 1934, Williams’ first “collected”  edition

continuing from yesterday

AG: So, now , the reason I was coming on to all of this was that the short form of the haiku or the long form of the (William Carlos) Williams sentence all say the same thing, which is – if you try to weave a series of discrete haiku-like perceptions in (Jack) Kerouac -ian-sketchy-sketch style, if you try to weave them in to one single continuous cadence of breath and a single continuous syntactical order, you’ll have to lay them out on the page in such a way as  that they will relate and depend and hang on each other,  and relate to each other, and finally come to a conclusion.  And if it doesn’t, then you ain’t got the material for a poem, probably (or at least not that kind of poem) . So you get things in Williams, like,,  “the moon, which, we have recently taken over, was once, your plant, O Mother of the Universe! ,though now, despite my palsied tongue, I still sing your white-globe fullness like the breasts of Flossie“,  or something –  In other words, a whole bunch of different  thoughts, but all put in a funny sentence, and Williams comes up with a  really nice American-sounding.. (he. sounds like an old fella’,  and rather cracker-barrel,  but something a little extra-special elegant).  .

So what was emerging from that was it was not exactly like somebody talking, except it sounded like  someone talking, but it was a little bit more complex and refined  than somebody’s talking, but it was modelled on somebody’s talking and thinking, for real.  So that, actually, he created a kind of art out of it, out of the elements of ordinary speech…

Is this making sense?  You know there is something a little bit artistic about Williams’ plain-ness when you look closely. There was a poem that I was trying to find, I couldn’t… but it ended.. what was it? – the wind coming round the corner?  – the wind that was coming round the corner has overwhelmed the entire city/ – at the end of a poem – he describes about ten different things, all of which are blown by the wind, which, coming around the corner has overwhelmed the entire city. It was like he used that gimmick to sum up a whole sentence. So… but the key, though, what I was saying was that if you try and find the right spoken number of minimum words, somehow, magically, the vividness of the sentence will fall into place. And if you try and find the right lengthy syntactical chain, the order in which to arrange your perceptions, somehow magically, the poem will arrive at a conclusion.  It’s just the..  do you see why logically that would happen? – that in the attempt to link different perceptions, sketch of sketching, imagistic perceptions, together, in a single-sentence syntax, it’s like a sequence of orderly thought that does lead to, “oh, I’d better write this down. It’s a poem”.  I mean, you do have.. you know, you have a series of. thoughts and then you write them down. So the poem’s syntax just hangs them all together showing their relationship, showing their natural relationship, not logical but natural relationship (which may be the relationtship of the order,…

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-three-and-a-half minutes  in and concluding at approximately forty-seven minutes in]

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