Feb 12 William Carlos Williams: This Is Just To Say, Bruce Guernsey: Glove

In the text book I’ve taken to quoting, the Introduction to Poetry, 7ed., Kennedy, I’ve gotten to the chapter titled “Words”. It talks about how words are the essential component of a poem which at first thought seems obvious, but as beginning poets struggle to write them and novice reader struggle to read them, they grasp at concepts and ideas, but not at the actual words that need to express those ideas.

An example is given in an anecdote about the painter Edgar Degas who attempted to write poetry and complained to a poet friend that he couldn’t understand why he couldn’t make any headway with it, “I’ve got plenty of ideas,” he said. She then calmly explained to him that, “you can’t make a poem with ideas – you make it with words.”

So the advice of the textbook is that when first approaching a poem, don’t try to figure out what the poem is inferring, try look carefully at what the poem is saying. It isn’t always a riddle. Look closely at its words that were very carefully chosen to give it meaning, and most poets try to find the most distinct word possible to give their meaning. So instead of saying “actor” they chose a specific actor “Brad Pitt”, instead of saying “chemical” they write “hydrogen peroxide”, instead of saying “color” they write “aqua-marine”.

William Carlos Williams is a good example of a poet who just said what he said. No deeper meaning, but the thing is what it is. (“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” Freud once said.)

This is the note to his wife.

This Is Just To Say

by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

But sometimes simplicity can express more. In Glove, simplicity helps to express something big, something deep and beautiful.


by Bruce Guernsey

If in this word
is love itself
then love is bone
and blood inside
the form that warms
your lovely hand –
your hand is love
and mine that takes
your love in mine
without your hand
is nothing but
an empty word.

what is in a word?


About penneloppe

I like to write horror, dark fantasy and crime fiction. Sometimes, I'll write science fiction, but usually I like to write science fact. I also write screenplays and stage plays. My day job is office work. I live in Seattle and I have a cat.
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