Sunday, January 02, 2011

William Carlos Williams

The following poem caught my eye as being nicely appropriate for this time of year. Then I got to wondering about its author, William Carlos Williams.

Winter Trees

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

(From Poetry Foundation) I've highlighted some phrases and related them to astrology notes below.

William Carlos Williams has always been known as an experimenter, an innovator, a revolutionary figure in American poetry. Yet in comparison to artists of his own time who sought a new environment for creativity as expatriates in Europe, Williams lived a remarkably conventional life. A doctor for more than forty years serving the New Jersey town of Rutherford, he relied on his patients, the America around him, and his own ebullient imagination to create a distinctively American verse. Often domestic in focus and "remarkable for its empathy, sympathy, its muscular and emotional identification with its subjects," Williams's poetry is also characteristically honest: "There is no optimistic blindness in Williams," wrote Randall Jarrell, "though there is a fresh gaiety, a stubborn or invincible joyousness."

Born the first of two sons of an English father and a Puerto Rican mother of French, Dutch, Spanish, and Jewish ancestry, Williams grew up in Rutherford, where his family provided him with a fertile background in art and literature.

...... it was a reaction against the rigid and ordered poetry of the time that led Williams to join Pound, H.D., and others as the core of what became known as the Imagist movement. While correlative revolutionary movements had begun in painting (Cezanne), music (Stravinsky), and fiction (Stein), poetry was still bogged down by "the inversions and redundancies imposed by the effort 'to fill out a standard form,'" explained David Perkins.

Williams's deep sense of humanity pervaded both his work in medicine and his writings. "He loved being a doctor, making house calls, and talking to people," his wife, Flossie, fondly recollected. Perhaps a less subjective appraisal came from Webster Schott, who defined Williams as
"an immensely complicated man: energetic, compassionate, socially conscious, depressive, urbane, provincial, tough, fastidious, capricious, independent, dedicated, completely responsive.... He was the complete human being, and all of the qualities of his personality were fused in his writings."

"experimenter, an innovator, a revolutionary figure" - Look no further than Sun/Uranus/Venus tightly conjoined. Uranus, the revolutionary planet of the unexpected so close to Sun has to manifest, if not as a physical revolutionary, then in some other way, and Venus planet of the arts indicated the way for Mr. Williams.

Mercury in balanced and diplomatic Libra (ruled by Venus)helped ensure any revolutionary urges remained tactfully embedded. Solidly traditional Saturn in Gemini (the writer's sign) also contributed to this poet's ability to remain "remarkably conventional", and "an immensely complicted man.....".

"a remarkably conventional life....A doctor" - Underlying his experimentation and poetic rebelliousness was a solid background (Earthy Virgo, ruled by Mercury planet of writers/communication). Other personal planets Mars and Jupiter were in Cancer - a sign often connected with medicine as a profession. The phrase "muscular and emotional identification with its subjects" made me smile as I noticed Mars (muscular) in Cancer (emotional).

Without a time of birth the Moon's position can't be determined. Unless he was born before 3:00 AM though it would have been in Aries; otherwise in the late degrees of Pisces. A case could be made for either, but on balance I like a late Pisces Moon in opposition to the Virgo cluster: emotional empathy balancing earthy but discerning rebellion. Such an opposition could also, perhaps, have accounted for his reported depressive trait - trying to balance the two sides of his personality when one was needing to be expressed more strongly than the other, could have led to a feeling of frustration and depression I guess.

Two more poems of William Carlos Williams: the first relates to his life as a doctor, the second, probably his best-known and simplest poem, which has been analysed to within an inch of its life by the "intelligentsia". I prefer it simple, leaving a picture in the mind.


They call me and I go.
It is a frozen road
past midnight, a dust
of snow caught
in the rigid wheeltracks.
The door opens.
I smile, enter and
shake off the cold.
Here is a great woman
on her side in the bed.
She is sick,
perhaps vomiting,
perhaps laboring
to give birth to
a tenth child. Joy! Joy!
Night is a room
darkened for lovers,
through the jalousies the sun
has sent one golden needle!
I pick the hair from her eyes
and watch her misery
with compassion.

The Red Wheelbarow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white


Anonymous said...

WCW is one of my favorites--thank you for this!

Wisewebwoman said...

Lovely T, though as always I would like to see a man give birth, compassion my a**.

Twilight said...

juliedemboski ~~ Glad you enjoyed it, Julie! :-)

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ Yes - and I thought the line :
"A tenth child, joy joy!" was hard to agree with!

I'm a bad one to be making judgment though, never having given birth, and never having had the inclination to do so.

I suppose a doctor's compassion is rather different from the compassion of an ordinary person in these circumstances too. For doctors, dealing with the act of giving birth has to be little more than a mechanical procedure. That a doctor will even consider feeling compassionate is surprising.