No ideas but in things: William Carlos Williams

Photograph (believed to be passport photograph...

Image via Wikipedia

William Carlos Williams was a poet and pediatrician from New Jersey. Born in 1883, he helped found the imagist movement, although in time he broke away from the European aesthetic that became a part of it. Williams wanted to experiment with meter, line, imagery, and the other elements of poetry, and wanted to do so in a way that would be American and altogether fresh. He was against certain traditions that often made poetry hard for ordinary people to understand, such as literary allusions and handed-down forms. “No ideas but in things” is a quote, the words Williams used to boil down his style and method.

Williams kept up his medical practice by day, wrote by night, and spent weekends in New York, hanging around with other artsy types. In addition to several books of poetry, he wrote plays, novels, essays, and an autobiography.

Here’s a link to his poem, To Mark Anthony in Heaven:

My following poem:

The Picnic Point Killer

In these faded orchards,
goldfinches and ripe apples drift
along the Wedgewood sky,
as do students, in pairs.
You became another
antiquity who escaped
from this city of ivory towers,
followed your man because
he didn’t like Hitler.
When the Reich separated
husband and wife,
when they sent you to the guillotine
alone, without your man’s
farewell letter to faded orchards,
did you close your eyes
to the executioner?
And when you did,
did you see the outline of your man,
or did you see ripe apples and goldfinches
drift on a clear summer wind?

Mildred Fish-Harnack,
tell me please,
I need to know.

(note: Mildred Fish-Harnack was an academic from the University of Wisconsin. She and her husband helped found the Nazi Resistance in Berlin, where they lived until Hitler separated, imprisoned, and executed them. Mildred was the only American woman to be executed by Hitler’s direct orders. Her final words were, “Ich habe Deutchland auch so geliebt.” (I also have so loved Germany.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s