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pieces i love: william carlos williams’ “as the cat” – an inherited piece.

December 29, 2010

i thought i might start a series on here, for people who think i’m a philistine and that i don’t read so much, or for people who want more insight into my mind, or for people who want recommendations for beautiful writing. (answers: i don’t read so much while i write my thesis, my mind is a beautiful and frightening place, and the writing i will showcase is writing that i love, so i cannot guarantee that you will love it also.)

i tend to inherit poetry, music, stories from the men of my life – men that i have had feelings for, or have been with, for however brief a time, or have admired, or have had feelings for from very afar. brief affairs.

 

william carlos williams goes back to my undergrad degree, when there was a boy (a man?) in my first ever creative writing class who i was hopeless for, who had a girlfriend who he loved very much, who wrote things that made me shake. to this day, he is still one of the best writers i’ve ever encountered, and i hope that one day he mines that as best he can. he was both shy and bold, twisted words in ways that i had never even considered, wrote love poetry almost like hate poetry. he had a deep, beautiful reading voice, and i appreciated him very much for the short time that we interacted. i’m not sure what he is doing at the present. i do know that he made going to class a real pleasure.

he mentioned william carlos williams to me, and so i went to the library to see what he was talking about. and i was glad that i did.

not all of WCW appeals to me. but one poem in particular stuck out, and i smiled because it was whimsical and yet also so true and solid.

 

As The Cat

As the cat
climbed over
the top of

the jamcloset
first the right
forefoot

carefully
then the hind
stepped down

into the pit of
the empty
flowerpot.

© William Carlos Williams

 

usually i am someone who goes for the brash and flowery and lush writing, so the sparseness of this may surprise you, but as i read this – both out loud and in my own head – i see the little foot of the cat extended, the rippling yet tentative motion of the cat’s spine as it steps down, hesitantly, as cats are wont to do, moving only at its own speed, only with its own motion.

the line breaks make perfect sense to me – me, the poet who often has trouble with line breaks because i can’t make the time to make the space for words. they mimic that same delicate and snobbish motion of the cat – the almost-hesitancy to step into the dirt, the careful nature of the movements. i can see the cat, stopping and starting, looking around, not bothering to move faster for the benefit of the poet who is sitting there, pencil poised above paper, waiting patiently for the next movement so the next stanza can be written.

it is not every poet who can capture the motion of a feline, let alone in so little words. somehow, WCW is making sparseness work for him, and while i prefer a lush set of stanzas, if a poet can take sparseness and own it, i appreciate that even more.

 

movement poems are hard. i like this one.

WCW.

 

so men may come and go, but the words last forever. i like that even more.

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