Sunday, 18 March 2012

Portsmouth Point Poetry: Spring and All

Spring and All

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

                                       William Carlos Williams [1923]

Click "Read More" for the review by George Laver

Welcome to the newest feature of the Portsmouth Point blog!
Having recently joined the editorial team, I have volunteered to take on the role of providing readers with a fortnightly poem. Every two weeks I will be introducing and recommending pieces from a broad range of works and writers, including many not mentioned in current GCSE, A Level or IB English courses. In addition to my own ideas, I hope to draw on suggestions from fellow PGS pupils and teachers in order to provide readers with an array of inspiring, intriguing and relevant works.
I’m sure many will agree that the appeal of poetry can wear thin when, as well as reading and discussing the same writers and poems day in day out, one must make masses of painstaking notes and produce essay after essay going laboriously over the minutiae of the language used and the themes dealt with in the assigned reading. While all this is unavoidable when there are grades at stake, it can often make the whole thing seem a bit of a chore. I personally believe that reading should, above all, be an enjoyable pursuit, and by providing something new every fortnight which can be read for its own sake and not simply out of necessity, I hope that I will be able to maintain a healthy level of interest in the diversity and genius of what is truly out there.
Since Spring is almost upon us, I have for the first entry decided to take Mr Burkinshaw’s recommendation of William Carlos Williams’ piece Spring and All. Born on the 17th of September, 1883, Williams worked as a family doctor after graduating from the medical school of the University of Pennsylvania, focusing on his poems largely at night. During his literary career he became closely involved with the modernist and Imagist movements and, although momentarily overshadowed by T.S Eliot after the publication of The Waste Land, grew in popularity and influence among American poets, eventually becoming recognized as one of the great American poets before his death on the 4th of March 1963. He won several prestigious awards, including the first National Book Award for Poetry and, posthumously, the Pulitzer Prize and the Gold Medal for Poetry of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
In Spring and All, Williams surveys the landscape of an imminent Spring with intriguing objectivity, relying heavily on clear, precise imagery as he directs the reader’s gaze from the “surge of the blue mottled clouds” through the “purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy stuff of bushes and small trees” and finally down to the very soil and the roots of the new life which is waiting to burst forth from the ground. The poem in some ways analogizes the discovery of the New World, but at the same time leads us by the hand through what we initially perceive to be a bleak, lifeless scene, gradually giving us an awareness of the impending thrust of new life brought by Spring. Through its stark yet complex use of imagery, we are encouraged to involve ourselves entirely in the vivid scenery and to create our own conjectures regarding the significance of all that is present in the landscape.

by George Laver 

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