Tuesday, March 6, 2012

poetry instead of Rush

Even I'm getting tired of all this brouhaha over Rush and his vile comments. There are people in my neighborhood, minor television celebrities who are getting in trouble now for nasty Tweets. He was just trying to be funny, apologists will say about Rush. She's really a nice person; it's her politics that aren't, one of my friends said about the minor celebrity. Anywho. I grabbed the February 23rd issue of The New York Review of Books and felt a frisson (how's that for pretentious) when I opened it to The New World of William Carlos Williams, a review of three new books about the great modernist American poet with a great big photo of the dear man on the first page.

I just quoted from one of Williams' poems the other day on this blog because my dog-eared copy of one of his books of poetry is one of my favorites. What synchronicity! What serendipity! What does this have to do with Rush? Well, about halfway through this five million word article, when I was well on my way to a happy oblivion, I read that Williams was notoriously insecure and perhaps even insanely jealous of his more famous poetic colleagues -- the Ezra Pounds and H.D.s, especially the T.S. Eliots. When he left his home of Rutherford, New Jersey (where he worked as a general practitioner, serving a poor and immigrant population) for a visit to Paris with his wife in 1924, he evidently felt paranoid and certain he was being scorned by the likes of Pound and H.D. And still, what does this have to do with Rush? Well, really, not much except that when commenting about his fellow poet T.S. Eliot, Williams wrote Maybe I'm wrong but I distrust that bastard more than any writer I know in the world today. He then compared Eliot's work to moles on a pig's belly instead of tits. I laughed out loud when I read that. I never really got into Eliot's poetry like I did Williams, and I thought how nice it would be if someone out in the ether could say something that perfectly cutting about a person like Rush.

So, there you go. Poetry instead of Rush.

Listen to this:

To a Poor Old Woman

and this:

The Widow's Lament in Springtime

and read this:


By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast-a cold wind.  Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines-

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches-

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter.  All about them
the cold, familiar wind-

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined-
It quickens:  clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance-Still, the profound change
has come upon them:  rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken

-- from Spring and All

and think about this:

No ideas but in things --

William Carlos Williams, from Paterson


  1. well, WCW's was really slinging the mud at Eliot, wasn't he?

    Good to remember that these poets we revere were just people, warts and all. (a lovely break -- of sorts -- from our current nasty news, thank you)

  2. Ah, thanks Elizabeth, for reminding me to turn away from the hypnotizing effects of vitriol, back toward the light that poetry casts.

  3. beautiful poem - I can see those same signs of spring around me - the pre spring - before the garish diva arrives

    Rush is a dummy (Rachel M. said it :)

  4. I love him, I love him, I love him. I wouldn't have been mad at him for taking that silly plum...

    I read somewhere that Pound and Eliot were very paranoid and very socially conservative. Wasn't it Eliot that was very anti-semitic?

    More reason for me to sidle up to WCM. Plus, I love him! xoxo

  5. Chrissy: Absolutely! And yes, I believe both Eliot(anti-semitism) and Pound (fascist) had their social "difficulties" -- the fact that Williams devoted his life to doctoring the poor and indigent is very telling, to me. Did you know, too, that he was the son of a South American woman and spoke only Spanish at home?

  6. I didn't know that! It makes sense: he was so soft and lyrical. What a good soul.

    By the way, did you ever teach poetry? If you haven't, you should.

  7. Still, the profound change
    has come upon them: rooted, they
    grip down and begin to awaken

    I read this and think, "I should go water my garden."

  8. Yes, this is what we need. Less political posturing and far more poetry. I didn't know all this about Williams, how wonderful (all of it). I didn't find your use of 'frisson' pretentious, and I loathe pretension (which probably means I am abnormally pretentious). So glad you shared the poem.

  9. Poetry makes me feel alive . Even when it leaves me grieving for something.. always.
    Other stuff?
    Not so much.

  10. I've never seen this photo of him. I think the words "dear man" aptly describe it, and him. He is one of my all-time favorite poets.



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