Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “William Carlos Williams”

POM: “Approach of Winter”

I am not a fan of winter. I may have mentioned that once or twice. In fact, I confess, I am known to have at least one ridiculous emotional meltdown–a little kid unreasonable tantrum, when the first snow makes landfall. Yes, I am embarrassed. If they had a support group for Winter Lamenters Anonymous I would attend.

Once my tantrum is over I am resigned to winter. To not acknowledge that we are stuck with it for the next 3-5 months is added misery. I buy sweaters and sip cocoa. More books get read. I try to find the bright side to the dark days of winter. Nope, I don’t ski. I might be convinced to sled though.

For the most part I ignore creative acknowledgements of winter. Don’t sing to me about wintertime; I am not interested in chirpy little winter televised specials. Fine. Maybe the Olympics. So, I was surprised when I actually liked the poem that dropped into my mailbox that’s part of my subscription service. You do subscribe to a poem service, right?

This caught my eye since it caught how I feel about the onset of winter. It earned double appreciation points having been penned by William Carlos Williams–the doctor poet. Enjoy.

The half-stripped trees
struck by a wind together,
bending all,
the leaves flutter drily
and refuse to let go
or driven like hail
stream bitterly out to one side
and fall
where the salvias, hard carmine,—
like no leaf that ever was—
edge the bare garden.


POM: April 21

Just what are the uses for poetry? I was hoping a sage, classic poet master like William Carlos Williams has the answer. After reading his poem I have more questions than answers.


The Uses of Poetry

William Carlos Williams, 18831963

I’ve fond anticipation of a day
O’erfilled with pure diversion presently,
For I must read a lady poesy
The while we glide by many a leafy bay,

Hid deep in rushes, where at random play
The glossy black winged May-flies, or whence flee
Hush-throated nestlings in alarm,
Whom we have idly frighted with our boat’s long sway.

For, lest o’ersaddened by such woes as spring
To rural peace from our meek onward trend,
What else more fit? We’ll draw the latch-string

And close the door of sense; then satiate wend,
On poesy’s transforming giant wing,
To worlds afar whose fruits all anguish mend.

Definitely a spot for posey Mayflies

image: morguefile/mzacha

POM: January Thoughts

January is that in between month. The newness of winter’s snow has moved into icy gray lumps at the side of the driveway. In order to not lose myself in thinking I’m stuck into a Narnian winterland, I try to see winter from different perspectives. I appreciate the idea of stubbornly clinging on to the past season of leafy trees and, of course, Whitman always has a new view to consider. There is also William Carlos Williams and his take on the first month of the year.

Winter Leafage by Edith Matilda Thomas

Each year I mark one lone outstanding tree,
Clad in its robings of the summer past,
Dry, wan, and shivering in the wintry blast.
It will not pay the season’s rightful fee,—
It will not set its frost-burnt leafage free;
But like some palsied miser all aghast,
Who hoards his sordid treasure to the last,

image: morguefile

It sighs, it moans, it sings in eldritch glee.
A foolish tree, to dote on summers gone;
A faithless tree, that never feels how spring
Creeps up the world to make a leafy dawn,
And recompense for all despoilment bring!
Oh, let me not, heyday and youth withdrawn,
With failing hands to their vain semblance cling!

Sounds of the Winter by Walt Whitman

Sounds of the winter too,
Sunshine upon the mountains—many a distant strain
From cheery railroad train—from nearer field, barn, house
The whispering air—even the mute crops, garner’d apples, corn,
Children’s and women’s tones—rhythm of many a farmer and of flail,
And old man’s garrulous lips among the rest, Think not we give out
Forth from these snowy hairs we keep up yet the lilt

January by William Carlos Williams

Again I reply to the triple winds
running chromatic fifths of derision
outside my window:
Play louder.
You will not succeed. I am
bound more to my sentences
the more you batter at me
to follow you.
And the wind,
as before, fingers perfectly
its derisive music.

NPM: #17–Willow tree

Willow Poem

William Carlos Williams, 18831963

It is a willow when summer is over,
a willow by the river
from which no leaf has fallen nor
bitten by the sun
turned orange or crimson.
The leaves cling and grow paler,
swing and grow paler
over the swirling waters of the river
as if loath to let go,
they are so cool, so drunk with
the swirl of the wind and of the river—
oblivious to winter,
the last to let go and fall
into the water and on the ground.

I grew up with a willow tree in our backyard. I always seemed a sad tree to me, weeping its leaves into our fish pond. I hadn’t thought about that tree until coming across Williams’ poem. Odd. Those willow leaves, as I recall, didn’t succumb to the “kiss of the sun” and fade away into autumn and winter as our maple did so stoically.

a sad dipping into the water–is this what inspired Williams? image: MorgueFile/LoneAngel


NPM: #12–a love poem


William Carlos Williams, 18831963

Love is twain, it is not single,
Gold and silver mixed to one,
Passion ‘tis and pain which mingle
Glist’ring then for aye undone.

Pain it is not; wondering pity
Dies or e’er the pang is fled;
Passion ‘tis not, foul and gritty,
Born one instant, instant dead.

Love is twain, it is not single,
Gold and silver mixed to one,
Passion ‘tis and pain which mingle
Glist’ring then for aye undone.

I first met William Carlos Williams whilst learning how ill-equipped I was to be in the Masters in the Teaching of writing program at Humboldt. I was quite illiterate when it came to poetry and the classics. My writing wasn’t up to snuff either. I even had a professor tersely whisper in my ear how I got in the program. The moment of crisis eventually passed once I gained understanding that poems weren’t really some mysterious language dropped out of the sky for mortals to puzzle over. Dr. Williams lent his red wheelbarrow to me one day, and I began to relax and realize that poetry was simply another way of listening to the heart.

Summer Read n Eat Poetry

Food and summer.  Yup.

Besides barbecue, picnics, reunions, vacation binges, craft fair nibbling, beach concession splurges and the like, there is also food found in our reading.  Take poems, for example.

This is just to say by William Carlos Williams

Watermelons by Charles Simic

Peach Blossoms by Carl Sandburg

A Ballad of Nursery Rhyme by Robert Graves

Orchard by Hilda Doolittle

Plums, watermelons, berries, peaches, oh my. Time to browse the Farmer’s Market!

For more summer foodie poems try this delightful site: TasteArt

Video Poems

While there are many ways to share poetry, be it by book, blog, spoken, or some such communique, I have found video posts to be like Dark Chocolate Dove Bites–savory and long-lasting.

Here is the poem:

This is Just to Say

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

William Carlos Williams

And here is the video:

The poem came alive for me in a different way once viewing the performance.  I remember studying William Carlos Williams in college.  I thought his poems rather mundane–I mean, he talked about wheelbarrows, chickens, plums–all ordinary stuff.  And then I realized there is a cadence, a melody, in all those everyday aspects of life.

For more video poems go to:



Happy Poetry Month!!

English: Photograph (believed to be passport p...

William Carlos Williams: writer of wheelbarrows, plums, and chickens

Coming to Terms with Poetry


education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

They say the best education we receive is that learned while teaching.  I found this to be especially true for poetry fundamentals.

I don’t recall studying poetry in jr. high English, unless studying Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” counts.  As for high school, I remember short stories, yet nothing on the poetry radar comes up for remembrance. College yes, ohmagoodness, poetry aplenty. I do recall a cacophony of emotions as I partook in the banquet of poets found in my Norton Reader. I transversed from embarrassment to  gratitude as I feasted on William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Sylvia Plath and others I had not known existed.  Why, oh why, did I feel the compunction to resell my Norton at the campus bookstore?  College students out there?  Think twice before reselling your textbooks.  All those annotations and well-visited markings really do become appreciated some day.

norton reader

norton reader (Photo credit: cdrummbks)

These days I’m teaching to Common Core Standards and have come to terms with poetry.  They are an absolute on the schedule of attained knowledge.  I also have my AP crowd to cater.  Although I have over 200 literary terms we learn over the course of  the year in AP, I start out my ninth graders with double dozen or so.  How many do you know or remember?

  1. accent: emphasis or stress given a syllable or a particular word.
  2. alliteration: the reiterated initial consonants in prose or poetry.
  3. anaphora: repetition of an opening word or phrase in a series of lines.
  4. assonance:  the repetition of two or more vowel sounds in successive words, creating a type of rhyme.
  5. ballad: a song which tells a story; also be a poem with songlike qualities which tells a story.
  6. blank verse: the most common meter of unrhymed poetry in English; it lacks stanza form and rhyme.
  7. caesura: a pause within the line of verse.
  8. conceit: a fanciful expression, usually in the form of an extended metaphor or an analogy that usually displays intellectual cleverness due to the unusual comparison being made.
  9. consonance: a close similarity between consonants or groups of consonants, especially at the ends of words, e.g. between “strong” and “ring.”
  10. couplet: two consecutive lines of poetry that rhyme, and often have the same meter
  11. diction: the selection of words in a particular literary work, or the language appropriate for a particular (usually poetic) work.
  12. doggerel: crude verse that contains clichés, predictable rhyme, and inept meter and rhythm.
  13. elegy: a poem which mourns the death of someone.
  14. enjambment: when one verse runs into another verse
  15. epic: a long narrative poem on a serious subject, usually centered on a heroic or supernatural person.
  16. epigram: a short poem, which can be comical.
  17. figurative language: language which goes beyond what is denoted (see denotation), and has a suggestive effect on the reader; a figure of speech is part of figurative language.
  18. free verse: poetry which lacks a regular stress pattern and regular line lengths (and which may also be lacking in rhyme). Free verse should not be confused with blank verse
  19. haiku: Japanese form of poetry of seventeen syllables with three unrhymed lines of five, seven and five syllables
  20. heroic couplet: a couplet with iambic pentameter
  21. iamb: a metrical foot of one short or unstressed syllable followed by one long or stressed syllable.
  22. imagery: often taken as a synonym for figurative language, but the term may also refer to the ‘mental pictures’ which the reader experiences in his/her response to literary works or other texts.
  23. kitsch: sentimentality, tastelessness, or ostentation in any of the arts.
  24. limerick: a five line humorous poem involving a fixed aabba rhyme scheme
  25. lyric: a short non-narrative poem that has a solitary speaker, and that usually expresses a particular feeling, mood, or thought.
  26. metaphor: a direct comparison–it does not use “like,” “as,” or “than.” In literature it is a figurative statement asserting one thing is something that it is not.
  27. meter: the recurrence of a similar stress pattern in some or all lines of a poem.
  28. ode: a relatively lengthy lyric poem, usually expressing exalted emotion in a complex scheme of rhyme and meter.
  29. onomatopoeia: a word or expression which resembles the sound which it represents, like the meow of a cat or the quack of a duck.
  30. pastoral: usually written by an urban poet who idealizes the shepherds’ lives. The term has now been extended to include any literary work which views and idealizes the simple life from the perspective of a more complex life.
  31. prosody: the rhythm of spoken language, including stress and intonation, or the study of these patterns
  32. repetition: the duplication of any element of language such as a sound, word, phrase, sentence, or grammatical pattern.
  33. rhyme: the identity of the sounds of the final syllables (usually stressed) of certain proximate lines of a poem.
  34. scan: to assign stress patterns to a poem.
  35. simile: a figure of speech that draws a comparison between two different things, especially a phrase containing the word “like” or “as,” e.g. “as white as a sheet.”
  36. symbol: a person, place, thing, or event that stands both for itself and for something beyond itself.
  37. syntax: how an author chooses to join words into phrases, clauses, and sentences; similar to diction which is focused on individual words, yet syntax is concerned with groups of words.
  38. theme:  the central idea or insight about human life revealed within the work.
  39. tone: the attitude, as it is revealed in the language of a literary work, of a personage, narrator or author, towards the other personages in the work or towards the reader.
  40. voice: the writer’s distinctive use of language, which is created through the use of a writer’s tone and diction.

 Okay, there is about a triple dozen and a dose for good measure here. Some terms crossover into prose which is why we start off with poetry before short stories. We’ve found our students grasp analyzing smaller chunks of literary concepts and then retain those terms and skills for the longer works.

So, how did you do?  I didn’t include the various types of poems in this set.  Stay tuned…

Happy Poetry Month


Poetry (Photo credit: Kimli)


A Novel Approach to Amish Fiction

Birth of Mennonite movement

Birth of Mennonite movement (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At one time I had a fascination with the Amish, having both a curiosity and a respect for their way of life.  I read both fiction and non-fiction on them, and even though my interest is not as keen, it’s still there. There has come a certain realization I am not alone with this interest as I am noticing a plethora of Amish fiction titles  appearing  in bookstores, and as choices for my review selections.  Why the sudden interest in the Amish?  Probably, like me, there is a fascination, a curiosity, and it’s hoped, a respect for their gentle way of life.

Most of these Amish titles are of the romance variety and I quickly pass on them; however, I recently came across an author whom I had been searching for, W. Dale Cramer, while trying to locate a previous read title, and found Cramer’s, Levi’s Will. Having been impressed with his previous title, Summer of Light, I grabbed this newly discovered title  and checked it out for my weekend read.

The cover said it had been selected by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the Best Books of 2004, and that intrigued me even more beyond the inside cover which indicated the plot revolved around a son seeking his father’s forgiveness, a shunned son of an Amish farmer.  I decided to revisit my interest in the Amish.

One of the more interesting aspects of this novel is Cramer’s profound inside knowledge of the Amish. The details didn’t smack of Internet researching. The mannerisms, the everyday expectations, even the conversations bespoke of intimate knowledge that comes from living the life.  The acknowledgements indicate the events are loosely based on family events, which of course prompted me to go to Cramer’s site and investigate. It turns out his father was raised Old Order Amish, and his mother was raised as a daughter of a Georgia sharecropper.  There definitely is a story with that family history. The story revolves around Will, who runs away from responsibilities foisted on him that he is not ready to take on.  As the story progresses he attempts to find a compromise between his Amish upbringing and the modern world.  Although he could have fallen on declaring himself a conscientious objector in order to avoid WWII, he philosophically explains his reasoning for joining up with the Army to his younger brother: 

“How is it right to seek out the protection of men with guns and yet refuse to take part in that protection? Is there not a debt?  Is it not hypocrisy?”

The rest of the plot addresses Will’s struggle to live among the “English” as he valiantly struggles to receive the forgiveness of his father.

I found the plot intriguing, well-written, and timeless.  The story of the prodigal son dates back to biblical times, which makes this story all the more relevant: there is an innate need for the love and favor of our parents, particularly the blessing of our father for our chosen life decisions.

The novel opens up with a poem by William Carlos Williams:

What power has love but forgiveness?
In other words
by its intervention
what has been done
can be undone.

What good is it otherwise?

The theme of forgiveness mixed in with the cultural journeying of Will Mullet made this a read that ended too soon.  This was an unusual Amish read, and for those who are looking beyond the “bonneted” Amish love stories, I suggest picking this one up.  It’s also a suggested read for those who are seeking to bridge the gap in a parental or family relationship.

Then again, pick up the book since W. Dale Cramer is a writer who spins a great story.Levi's Will

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: