A Sort Of A Song

Let the snake wait under
his weed
and the writing
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wait,
-- through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
Compose. (No ideas
but in things) Invent!
Saxifrage is my flower that splits
the rocks.

by William Carlos Williams

Comments (10)

a revolutionary poem that sings of a new write way? .............brilliantly written.
The good doctor for our antiquated poetry ills. William Carlos Williams was (and his work remains so) a giant among giants. A Sort of a Song is sort of a prescription for what is required for a good poem. It is a sort of a sermon you might say. The opening image of the snake and the weed is generic and vaguely Biblical in reference. It does specify what kind of snake. It does not say boa constrictor and thus conjure up the lush green vegetation of humid imagination. No drily dangerous rattlesnake lurking in the rocks. Not a harmless common garter snake or even a legless lizard. In essence, the image is a throw away, without depth or a concrete connection to a physical place and time that would spark further connections in the imagination. So much more so the image of a weed. What is a weed? A weed is any plant in a place where we deem it to be unwelcome. Dr. Williams is, I believe, trying to tell us this opening image is an example of failed writing. Somewhat like the snake in the garden of eden, symbolic mostly of that which we should most avoid. Pay attention to the words. Poetry is, after all, a linguistic art. The words must be viewed as concretely as possible. They are the material of creation we hope to bring into existence. The words themselves have a materiality, a sound and a form on the page, that conveys meaning even beyond the abstract intellectual sense of the words. Their generic meaning. Pay attention to rhyme and rhythm, fricatives and sybilants, even to the way the letters lay on the page above or below the line, round or angular. All these factors affect or perception of meaning. Then, magically, mysteriously, with a leap into the middle of the meat of a poem, discover metaphor. See how he finishes his first idea with a period but leaps into his next thought with a dash, it starts without his even being ready for it. This is the step that transforms the hard materia poetica into something ethereal and aesthetic. It is the reconciliation of what is with what it is in the mind. The poem is composed. It is composed both in Wordsworth's sense of emotions recollected in tranquility as well as the idea of arranging things to create an aesthetic combination worthy of artistic representation. You must take what is there, the things, and find their proper fit in the poem. No ideas but in things. Compose reality to reveal the ideas. Show, don't tell. Those things we pick to include in a composition bring emotional weight with them. Choose carefully. Pay attention to the world around you and how you invest in it the emotions and ideas that are within you. But neither forget to Invent! Those investments are one form of invention. But also bring disparate objects, things, together in your images. Invent new compositions. Thermonuclear smartphones! The everyday and the extraordinary can coexist to brilliant new ends in art. In poetry. In a delicate flower, an intrinsic idea of fragility and transient beauty, that splits the rock. The immovable, unemotional, stable inflexible objectivity. Sit at the feet of the good doctor and breathe in his healing wisdom.
Small poems can be nice because you can read them quicker and have an assortment of special ideas in bold titles. A collection of these can serve as an appealing representation.
Sleepless! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us.
Slow and quick..... thanks for posting......
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