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I often yearn to capture my experiences as a listener of music in writing. And not just the sometimes-flat prose of the essayist or aesthetician: poetry. I believe that the best moments I experience as a listener are somehow similar to those I experience as a reader, so it's a matter of appropriateness: poetry to describe poetry, really.

Understandably, I find it hard to do this. I'm not a poet and at the moment I have no great desire to be (I don't mind beind poetic, though, in my prose, when I can).

Imagine my delight, then, to find that William Carlos Williams did, kind of, just this. By chance I opened volume II of his collected poems to a page just a bit after 'Pictures from Breughel' (which also fits in here, so perhaps more on it later), to find, in poetic form:

  • a reaction to seeing one of his own plays performed for the first time
  • an assessment of Gauguin's The Loss of Virginity

I think there are more, too.

I say that Williams did what I want to do, but I'm not sure. Perhaps subtly so. On the surface he appears to have simply made critical comments, the kind usually made in prose, with poetry instead. But Williams consorted briefly with the imagists, and favored similar techniques. He was interested in presenting images ("no ideas but in things") which would allow the effect (emotional? intellectual?) associated with the image (as a "complex") to simply take effect in the reader. Or, at least, the imagists were interested. Williams moved away from them a bit (he had to, to support the larger and more complex ideas, with more complex structure), but I think this fairly describes something of his approach as well. The way he makes these critical observations, then, might carry something of his own reaction to the play or painting.

See also this intriguing agglomeration of things about the visual arts, Williams, and Frank O'Hara.

With that said, I currently have no other comment on these, except to show them, and some other nice poems of Williams', to you.


on seeing my own play
Many Loves
on the stage for the first time

I recall
many a passage
of the original con-

versations with my
patients, especially the
women, myself

the interlocutor
laying myself bare for them
all there

in the play but who will
take the trouble
to evaluate

the serious aspects of
the case? One
of the actors by

dint of learning the lines
by heart
has come to me

his face aglow openmouthed
a light in his eyes
Nothing more


- as in Gauguin's The Loss of Virginity -
how inessential it is to the composition:

the nude body, unattended save by a watchful
hound, forepaw against the naked breast,

there she lies on her back in an open field,
limbs quietly assembled - yet how by its

very unrelatedness it enhances the impact
and emotional dignity of the whole . . .


as for him who
finds fault
may silliness

and sorrow
overtake him
when you wrote

you did not
the power of

your words


Maybe it's his wife
the car is an official car

to a petty police officer
I think
but her get-up

was far from official
for that time
of day


I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold


And to think, I was considering doing this myself.