LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for TSE Archives


TSE Archives

TSE Archives


TSE@PO.MISSOURI.EDU


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

TSE Home

TSE Home

TSE  August 2007

TSE August 2007

Subject:

Re: William Carlos Williams : Response

From:

Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Thu, 30 Aug 2007 15:28:45 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (266 lines)

I said nothing at all about what Williams intended in this poem, only
about his poetics and what he wished to do as an American poet rejecting
Eliot's notion of tradition.  My comments on the poem are on the words,
the pattern of words, and the blocking of sections.

As I wrote later, Diana is absolutely right on later Williams, but this
is not later Williams:  it is during the early stage she described.

It is only to the observer that the bull "looks godlike" or can be
imagined as "care-free" or wise.  None of that is what the bull can be
known or imagined to experience anymore than what milk means to you. 
Imagine yourself as the chained and impotent bull and it might produce a
very different impression, one Williams keeps introducing.  He often
does that--presents a perspective that other details subvert.  It would
be hard to imagine anything more different from Four Quartets, and what
Williams did affirm is no less valuable, just very different. 
Ironically, you assume you know what Eliot "aspired to" in Four
Quartets" and to take that seriously, but whatever Williams "aspired to"
is not significant.  

What is the difference?  

Many people share Williams's intensely sensual celebration of life and
are not attracted to detachment.  For Williams, what he wrote was
quintessentially "American" and celebrated a new poetics.  As Carrol
said, detachment is not what Williams wrote about.  Frankly, finding
such "magnificence" in a chained and ringed (painful if the animal moves
and used to control it) is very strange.

But what is at stake here is not simply these details.  It is the claim
that poetry is anything at all an individual reader thinks about when
reading it.  Poets have starved to write because they wanted to say or
create or reveal something, not because they were just providing lexical
stimuli for the readers' prior ideas.  All that would need is a random
flipping through a dictionary   (Not a bad idea either but different.)
Cheers,
Nancy

>>> Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]> 08/30/07 2:23 PM >>>
Thanks for your many painstaking observations, Diana. 
   
  What I was pointing out to was something writ large
  in every word, every line, of this poem. Whether or not
  Williams willed it, it matters little to me. When a reader
  comes across a poem at random (and that's how I came
  it across), he doesn't go about asking if it has to be read
  in a specific way because the poet intended it to be
  read that way.
   
  I was just sharing a point of view -- a certain correspondence
  here in terms of the state of "the still point" of detachment
  from both pain (of "ringed, haltered, chained to a drag") and 
  pleasure ("the sweet grass) which the bull exemplified.
   
  To me the poem can be taken as a profound comment on
  the human situation (metaphorically though).
   
  The bull is chained to a drag, a work he has perforce
  to carry out.
   
  However, he shows no signs of misery or pain -- he looks
  "godlike" in his demeanor.
   
  And, in the next stanza, he is not taken in either by the
  pleasing aspects of life ("the sweet grass") -- he takes them
  rather gingerly for what they are -- quite a wise and
  insightful bull ;-)
   
  In the next stanza, his carefree attitude is likened to a god
  on the Olympus -- looking at the world with "half-closed eyes"
  (reminds me of Yeats' philosophic Chinamen in 'Lapis Lazuli').
   
  The poet then talks of his inner solidity that relates to his
  outward shine. 
   
  This hardness of substance, however, is not impervious to
  a sense of harmony/music playing through it.
   
  The single most important word that qualifies the bull
  (and the poet allows it full space) is "milkless".
  To me, milk is an emblem of the primordial bond that
  bonds a mother and a child -- perhaps one of the most
  potent of human bonds -- by being "milkless", the bull
  transcends this bondage -- hence he is "godlike" in his
  detached loneliness, and in his majesty.
   
  The last stanza presents the magnificence (and wisdom?)
  of an aged bull, his "eyes matted / with hyacinthine curls".
   
  This is the state of being idolized by the Bhagavad Gita,
  and this is the state Eliot's 'Four Quartets' aspires to.
  If William Carlos Williams was unaware of this aspect
  of the bull he painted, one can only pity him.
   
  Cheers!
   
  CR
   
  

Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
  Dear CR and all,

Response to several points.

First, Ken is right that a poet may do much more than they intend or
something different. 

Second, a poem, nonetheless, is not simply what readers read. Williams
spent years and books insisting on poetry that presented the thing in
itself. It was a deliberate and life-long poetic theory, not an aspect
of one poem. A poem comprises an author, a reader, a thing represented,
and a representation. (See a full discussion of this in the section on
"representation" in CRITICAL TERMS FOR LITERARY STUDY. It's extremely
insightful on this and helps explain why students often imagine the poem
is anything they think it is, even if there is no basis for their
notions in the text.) So it is no more possible to exclude the author
and/or the text itself than to exclude the reader. A reader is
constrained by what is on the page, and the author put it on the page. 
It is not simply a matter of intention; it is a matter of the
representation itself. Williams's poem is no more just whatever you
feel when you read it than "The Waste Land" is a poem about the serenity
of cows in a pasture in Vermont or the annoyance of cow pats. It just
doesn't have any Vermont cows or cow pats in it.

So your first premise is simply not accurate; responses are not the
totality of meaning and often they are not based in the text. And what
you call here your reading is not a reading but what you first described
as a reminder evoked by comparison.

Given that, Denise Levertov, in an essay on Williams ("The Ideas in the
Things") pointed out that Williams never said there were no ideas, only
that they were in the things. He deliberately and consciously avoided
symbolic methods and ideas not part of what he saw as the American new
way of seeing physical reality. Her point was that words carry meanings
whether one intends them or not. So the word "hyacinthine," for
example, may--in itself--evoke Greek ideals or even Eliot's hyacinths. 
But that is to take it out of context. The bull is in captivity. He is
"ringed, haltered, chained/ to a drag." He has to nozzle grass to pass
the time away. He is milkless. The hyacinthine curls are matted
between his horns and his eyes as if his natural volence and activity is
closed off from his ability to see anything. 

This is not an depiction of detachment or serenity but of a profound
imposed imprisonment. Bulls do not chain themselves or choose to do
nothing. A reading that looks at all the words and the bull itself
rather than a pre-imagined ideal cannot avoid that. And the latter
would not fit with anything about all the other intensely physical and
sensual imagery of Williams that Carrol noted.

Given the tendency of many on this list to insist on the reading of
Eliot through Eliot, and especially as a "lifetime's effort" it seems
odd that Williams is also to be read through Eliot when he detested
Eliot and all Eliot had done to poetry. 

Third, Williams's reaction to Eliot was to the very notion of a long
European history as source that the notion of "detachment" and Eliot's
learning in Eastern religion would have created. Here is Williams on
Eliot:

"When I was halfway through the prologue [to KORA IN HELL], 'Prufrock'
appeared. I had a violent feeling that Eliot had betrayed what I
believed in. He was looking backward; I was looking forward. He was a
conformist, with wit, learning which I did not possess. he knew French,
Latin, Arabic, god knows what. I was interested in that. But I felt he
had rejected America and I refused to be rejected and so my reaction was
violent. I realized the responsibility I must accept. I knew he would
influence all subsequent American poets and take them out of my sphere. 
I had envisaged a new form of poetic composition, a form for the future.
It was a shock to me that he was so trememdously successful."

Here is Kenner on Williams on Eliot: "After a third of a century had
passed, the mention of Eliot could still stir up in him a blind
indignation."

Since Kenner wrote on both of them and admired both, his comparisons are
useful and interesting.

You may wonder why I am writing all this. It is because to treat
Williams's poem--or the work of any poet--as nothing but a touchstone
for one's own feelings and to dismiss everything the author DOES bring
to their creation is to dishonor creativity. It does matter what--in a
broad and intense sense--Williams was trying to do, just as it matters
that Eliot could find no poetry to work from except the French
Symbolists and the Elizabethans when he began. To ignore his symbolist
method would be to dismiss not one reader but an entire transformation
in poetic history.

And, for Ken, no--I am not having a double standard. I read Eliot's own
theory and recognize his own view of what he did and why and from what
sources. To disagree with much of what he thought is not to deny that
he thought it or to refuse recognition of, for example, the fact that he
wrote symbolist poems.
Nancy



And this to Nancy Gish: a?poem is?there?for?a reader to read?

and share?their response with other readers -- there were many a

student/teacher?who?reciprocated my reading of it?-- that was 

in a university in India many years ago -- and I'm sure 

there will be many?elsewhere who will partake of my reading, 

irrespective of what William Carlos?Williams thought of his poetry. 

As WH Auden?said?(In Memory of WB Yeats) :?

?

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities 
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections, 
To find his happiness in another kind of wood 
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience. 
The words of a dead man 
Are modified in the guts of the living. 

?

And this to Carrol : it's a compliment to a poem's versatility

(of meaning)?if it?evokes different?things?in different readers,

and seems conformist to some, non-conformist to others.

?

And thanks, dear Gunnar, for sharing your excitement.

'The Bull' became an instant?hit with me too. 

?

And not?least, thanks a lot, Ken, for your cogent remark,


"what an author thinks he or she is doing may or may not be

on the mark".


?

Cheers!

?

CR




Moody friends. Drama queens. Your life? Nope! - their life, your story.
Play Sims Stories at Yahoo! Games. 

________________________________________________________________________
Email and AIM finally together. You've gotta check out free AOL Mail! -
http://mail.aol.com


       
---------------------------------
Need a vacation? Get great deals to amazing places on Yahoo! Travel. 

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
March 1996
February 1996
January 1996
December 1995
November 1995

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



PO.MISSOURI.EDU

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager