Tuesday, February 17, 2009

1917 "The Young Housewife" by William Carlos Williams

The Young Housewife

At 10 a.m. the young housewife
Moves about in negligee behind
The wooden walls of her husband’s house
I pass solitary in my car.

Then again she comes to the curb
To call the ice-man, fish-man, and stands
Shy, uncorseted, tucking
Stray ends of hair, and I compare her
To a fallen leaf.

The noiseless wheels of my car
Rush with a crackling sound over
Dried leaves as I bow and pass smiling.

The Author: William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

Famous for his dictums—“No ideas but in things” and “a poem is a machine made of words”—Williams was a practicing medical doctor to support his life as a poet. A stay-at-home American during the years of fashionable literary expatriatism, his career contrasts easily with those of Pound and Eliot, yet Williams was no parochial regionalist. His poetry resonates with the visual arts he studied and produced, and his poetic theory was carefully reasoned. He especially valued careful observation of the physical world expressed in spare, everyday language (what he called the “American idiom”) as seen in the early poem above, and he thought Pound and Eliot over-valued European culture. His long poem "Patterson" (1946) illustrates the continuing desire by poets to compose an American epic.
--Trisha Yarbrough


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