Friday, April 18, 2008

This Is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams

Williams was an oddity in that he rarely used metaphor. There are no hidden meanings in This Is Just to Say. The poem is exactly what it claims to be. Its power stems from its images, clarity of language, and the "energy" Williams creates using line breaks. He recreates the experience of actually tasting the plums.

This Is Just to Say

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

William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1883. He was a practicing doctor, and a principal poet of the Imagist movement, which stressed precision of imagery, and clear, sharp language.


Blogger JackieD said...

Beautiful ^_^ Short and sweet. I usually don't like poems that use such a broken format, but it really works here.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Chandini said...

Compelling poem. Somewhat like the prose of Frank McCourt.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Faith said...

I've always admired the way Williams is able to create so much meaning out of what is left unsaid. It reminds me of the "short story" by Hemingway: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Great choice!

11:16 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

ooohhh! i like that a lot! thank you....

12:45 AM  
Blogger Oma said...

One of my favourite imagist poems is by Margaret Atwood:

You fit into me
Like a hook into an eye

A fish hook
An open eye

6:54 AM  
Blogger Tania said...

I agree - good choice. So clear and almost tangible in its simplicity.

8:36 AM  
Blogger John said...

I wrote this poem.

Can folks please tell me its weaknesses?



On a summer path
in a slippery, 
beech tree shadow,

you reached into your dark suitcase.

Two ducks waddled past us,
towards a cool brook,

then dipped their feet
into the fast, clear stream.

You withdrew
a small and heavy thing
from your case,

- concealing it in your palm -

and threw it quickly
into the bank of reeds.

Seeds burst
(like a smile)
from the cattails,

and drifted - white and silent -
into the August breeze.

8:41 AM  
Blogger Misty said...

This is one of my all time favorites. But I don't think it's about nothing and I don't think it's about the plums, either.

Thanks for posting it; I've been meaning to look it up again.

1:53 AM  
Anonymous chris c said...

This is
just to say
read the poem =P

11:01 AM  
Blogger Ginger said...

john, you should enable access to your blog so people can tell you what they think about your poem...

misty, to me it's about the depth within the simplicity of things usually taken for granted in life. he ate the plums, they were good...he's sorry if that was the wrong thing to do. you could analyze why he did it, but that would ruin it. i think it just implies there's more to life than simple actions like eating plums....or there could be no hidden meanings and it's just about plums. :)

4:18 PM  
Blogger Jane Hamilton said...

i love William Carlos Williams' work. he also wrote:

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

This is my favourite one!

2:26 AM  
Blogger Tilak said...

A genius! simply beautiful.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Impulsively Me said...

How fascinating! Simplicity has profound beauty in it!


12:27 PM  
Anonymous azita said...

I like it very much. Thanks for sharing. By the way I have a link to your blog on my page.

1:27 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Check out last week's episode of the Ira Glass radio program "This American Life":

Act Two contains "spoofs" of this famous Williams poem: very, very good and funny.

4:33 PM  
Blogger FREE Stuff said...

I love poems.
Thanks for posts them Keep up the great work

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Shawn Hamlet said...

I have never read anything like this before. It was simplistic yet elaborate. I think your style of writing (if this is your officail style) is neat. Maybe you can give a few tips on how to make my work more easy for readers to read. Come by and check out my blog!!!

11:18 AM  
Blogger Mr. Hamlet said...

Hey, I spelled "OFFICIAL" wrong! LOL

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh, i love this poem, thank you for posting it. I will memorize it now. I am a poet, as well. i love poetry.

8:16 PM  
Blogger Love.Lindsey said...

This poem really speakes to me=]

i like it

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uggh. I read that poem for the first time in 8th grade and it's so awful...I'm at a loss. Poetry is not simply throwing words together. Honestly, what the hell?

At least you didn't post his wheelbarrow piece.


I know, all of you poetry snobs will disagree.

But the fact that HE was published when there are so many poets IMMENSELY better who haven't been is infuriating.

Makes me grind my teeth down to the jawbone.

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ha ha ha so funny etc

7:08 PM  
Blogger thehubcapkid said...

anonymous, the problem with this poem is its too familiar with everybody. nobody (maybe you either) really knows about his other wonderful stuff from Kora in Hell, or -- and biggest of all -- his Patterson books. if you think that this is crap, you'll turn yourself around while reading Patterson.

The Red Wheelbarrow and This Is Just to Say are one, projections of images...about the concept of the image and language, which was wicked important to Williams.

trust me, turn your self round to the bookstore/library and look up Patterson and sink your teeth into it...

10:39 PM  
Blogger undercover said...

It says a lot about temptation, how our need to acquire it and the excuses we make surpass any logical reasoning.

11:41 PM  
Blogger Mithun said...

Simple yet punch is missing or didn't I get it? Is the poem working on two levels?

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just love this poem. It has held me in its grip since I was introduced to it by my otherwise pretentious American Lit. tutor at university back in about 1981. I aapire to write fractionally as well. I fail.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

Don't know why, I think that's an odd poem. Haha

6:53 PM  
Blogger MaryPosa said...

I read this poem about 12 years ago, a freshman in High School. I loved it and never though of it since. I discovered William Carlos Williams in college, but somehow we missed this poem. I read it today. I love it.

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love w.c.w .... i always have so much fun playing around with his red wheelbarrow ... removing words and seeing new images ...for instance:

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

makes me think of abandoned trucks, junkyards, car wrecks ....or a wedding on a rainy day ...

then again, i have a quirky view of life!

12:32 AM  
Blogger gmoke said...

WCWillians is a true American voice. If you want to understand his work, read _I Wanted to Write a Poem_, an interview with him and his fantastic wife, Flossie. There´s also his prose, especially the trilogy he wrote about the life of his wife and their family.

Williams knew that American English relied on assonance not rhyme and had different rhythms than English English, it´s syncopated and staccato in some places and loose and long in others (check out Mark Twain´s descriptions of the Missippi and the way Kerouac and the Beats picked up that thread - thank you, Lew Welch).

¨No ideas but in things,¨ sin´t that what Williams said? He, by training and practice a family doctor, dealt not with abstractions but concrete reality or as close as he could get to it. His knowledge of American history was deep and his essays on it are profound. _Patterson_ is his attempt at an American epic and can be read side by side with Charles Olson´s _Maximus_ to get a sense of the American ideal as history, as community, as a people.

Great stuff.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Zahhar said...

"[The poem's] power stems from its images, clarity of language, and the "energy" Williams creates using line breaks ..."

YOu're joking, right? Please tell me you're joking.

This is just two prosaic sentences, nothing special, chopped up with a meat cleaver into short lines.

It's exposition in verse form, not poetry. The better form for something like this is prose, at least then you can gobble the two sentences up in to flicks of the eye rather than suffering through several chopped lines through to a moot point. :-/

9:40 PM  
Blogger Patty said...

I encountered this poem in college. I hung it on my dorm refrigerator. Thank you for reminding me of it.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Noni Moss said...


8:54 AM  
Blogger strangeloop said...

I love this poem. One of my favorites. There's something about it, but the fact that I don't know what it is, is probably why I like it so much.

11:17 PM  
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