Thursday, 31 January 2013

William Carlos Williams - snap shot imagery

I was talking about this dude I see on my way from work who lives on Maitland Road and how when I catch a glimpse of him I’m reminded of the style of some of William Carlos Williams snapshot poems where he captures in perfect word the circumstances and scenes of everyday life.  Possible content for a poem is all around us, and like a photographer, I’ve got to be alert to the perfect shot – the frozen image and the emotion.  But, unlike the photographer, I’ve only got words in which I can preserve and present the scene.  To me, this is the difficulty but also the beauty of poetry over other art forms.  The beauty is that each individual, without necessary study, without natural talent has the skill to try immediately to express their emotion through the written word.  Try that with music or oil painting or bronze sculpture!  This is not to say that our hero poets aren’t talented in a worthy art.  It is to say there can be a lot more bad poets out there than there might be bad sculptors.  We might not have to do classes to start, but we do have to study to get better.  I find William Carlos Williams a good poet to hold influence over me when I realise I’m not that spiritual sage, nor a prophet with gifted sight into the meaning of life, or a learned academic steeped in clever phrase, or a man well travelled among the whole of the world’s most interesting and quaint cultures.  Williams writes poetry at the edge of my imagination.  Being at the edge, I sometimes have to come back and read it, and read it – but I do understand, and I feel so clearly what he has observed through his eyes and in his emotion.  That’s how it is with one of Williams’ poems I’ve selected for this post, view of a lake.  I read this and I’m twelve or thirteen years old again, me and ‘chook’ Richards with our bikes abandoned, jumping off the side of the hospital bridge into high tide water with cars rattling over loose wooden planks.
view of a lake
(William Carlos Williams 1883 - 1963)
from a
highway below a face
of rock
too recently blasted
to be overgrown
with grass or fern:
Where a
waste of cinders
slopes down to
the railroad and
the lake
stand three children
beside the weed-grown
of a wrecked car
immobile in a line
facing the water
To the left a boy
in falling off
blue overalls
Next to him a girl
in a grimy frock
And another boy
They are intent
watching something
below ----?
A section sign:  50
on an iron post
by a narrow concrete
service hut
(to which runs
a sheaf of wires)
in the universal
cinders beaten
into crossing paths
to form the front yard
of a frame house
at the right
that looks
to have been flayed
remains a sycamore
in leaf
Intently fixed
the three
with straight backs
the stalled traffic
all eyes
toward the water

Following from my poem, On Maitland Road, I look for the dude who stands in the doorway of his rental, still on Maitland Road.  In a quick glimpse I try to sum up what I see, what I feel and what I think – then I develop it; yeah, that’s something like how I saw it …………

2012.  I take the same route home from work every day, for three years.  And there’s a ‘dude’ lives in a rental on Maitland Road.  I’ve told you about him before.  Thanks Dude.
still on Maitland Road
I turn right
into Maitland Road
I’m looking for the Dude
sits in his doorway
that opens
straight on the traffic,
and, bang!
there he is,
and he’s working
on a sixteen, twenty inch
pedestal fan,
right there on the footpath,
business men
sucking in their lunch guts
trying to snig by,
not to get tangled up
in the grease
crap off the fan,
women detouring strollers
out on the street,
inquisitive toddlers
in mid lick
of their ice-creams,
eyes and mouths open
to a never before happening,
brains over-loaded
with explanation,
heads oscillating
on slow speed,
from the Dude
back to the mum,
and the Dude’s
got the fan bent over
in an under-arm hold
like you would put
on a Latin dance partner,
and you can see
by the way he’s working
the six inch shifter, and
the multi-grips,
that the Dude senses
a hot summer coming on.
                                    J. O. White

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