Wednesday, April 29, 2015

PAD Day 29: Trashing Dr. Bill

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo:
(1) Write a "nobody knows" poem, and
(2) Write a poem in the form of a review.

So here's the deal.  I know I still want to write a "serious" poem today because the judge at Poetic Asides is Marge Piercy, one of my favorite poets, with whom I worked for a week in a workshop a few summers ago, and whom I know best of all this month's judges. (See my prior blog entry here for a chronicle of my experience, one of the best weeks I ever spent with poetry.) But I had so much fun responding to the NaPoWriMo prompt that I had to post it early. I'll post another poem later once it comes to me.  This may not qualify as a "poem", and it's certainly not a serious trashing of one my favorite poets of all time, but like I said, it was fun.



Poetry Review
 

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickensso much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickensso much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens
so much depends
upon  

a red wheel
barrow  

glazed with rain
water  

beside the white
chickens 

William Carlos Williams’  latest poem is a study in obfuscation. 
How can only sixteen words
(or fifteen, if one reconnects the maddeningly dissected “wheelbarrow”)
be so obscure and confusing?   

He begins with a statement that “so much depends”
on this piece of farm equipment. What exactly does depend on it?
Apparently, it’s been left out in the rain –
an object thus abandoned would seem to have outlived
its utility, in this humble writer’s opinion.
Methinks that not much really depends
on a wheeled hopper left to rust in the elements.  
And why state the obvious regarding the hue of this device?  
Everyone knows that wheelbarrows are red.   

Regarding the glazing by rain, of what other substance
would rain be composed other than water? 
This writer has never seen motor oil or orange juice
fall from the sky.  The fact that it sits beside the white chickens
seems trivial and coincidental at best.
Of course there are chickens – this is a farm, for pity’s sake. 
And is it really significant that they are white? 

The unusual line breaks only further confound the issues
in the poem, the aforementioned fracture of  “wheelbarrow”
being one such example.  Conceits such as this only help perpetuate
the distressing trends in today’s poetry, which include
the abandonment of classical themes, rhyme and meter,
and even sensible, syntactical arrangement of the words.
If Dr. Williams were not so busy with his medical practice,
and used paper larger than a prescription pad,
perhaps he would have had time to produce a longer,
more substantial poem. As it stands, it is chopped up
like a salad. It could be simplified just by eliminating
the line breaks and unnecessary words: 

So much depends upon a wheelbarrow glazed with rain beside the chickens. 

Congratulations, Dr. Williams – you have written a sentence.
But then we come back to the enigmatic question:
What depends on that goddamned wheelbarrow? 
This writer has lost sleep the last three nights attempting
to decipher its meaning. I guess we will never know. 

-        Reginald Overcrom, The Fusty Review of Literature, December 1962.


 

2 comments:

De said...

Bruce, as a lover of WCW, I simply love this. LOVE. So clever.

If you have not already read "Love that Dog" by Sharon Creech, I highly recommend it. It does shed a little gentle light. ;)

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Oh, brilliant! It isn't, of course, Dr Bill you've trashed, but that detestable creature, lit crit. Which as far as I'm concerned deserves all the trashing it can get.