Blog

Posts
"Poetry: Serious. Not That Serious." by Lucy Hitz  

Poetry: Serious. Not That Serious.

14 March on Blog, Poetry: Serious. Not That Serious.   Tags:

William Carlos Williams + Muriel Rukeyser In [Imagined] Conversation

Poets are in constant dialogue with one another: the living to the living, the living to the dead. We dedicate poems to one another. We mimic. We steal. We pay homage. With this in mind, an experiment—

William Carlos Williams has been described by mega-fan Robert Pinsky as holding a world view of “simultaneous scorn and courtship, plainness and magnitude.” He also has amazing line breaks. In the introduction to A Muriel Rukeyser Reader, Adrienne Rich quotes the critic Louise Kertesz: “No woman poet [or “poetess,” as she was referred to in her FBI file] makes the successful fusion of personal and social themes in a modern prosody before Rukeyser.” Below, an imagined conversation between the two, in their own words, on desire and love and blood and doing crazy things at night. You know, the good stuff. Footnotes included because mama’s gotta give credit where credit is due. DISCLAIMER: I am using these poets’ phenomenal wordsmithing to create something new, not a transcript of what the two would have actually said to one another in real life, in a real room.

MK: Speak to me.  Take my hand.  What are you now?
    I will tell you all. I will conceal nothing.[1]
WCW: It’s a strange courage
     you give me ancient star…[2]
MK: [in reverie] We all had a good time
                                          the throne was there and all
and there she was with that primitive unforgivable mouth
saying sophistications about nothing at all
as the young men cavorted up the room Darling
it’s a swell party and those Martinis with
the olives so delicately soaked in alcohol…[3]
WCW: [interrupting] Can you not be decent? Can you not reserve your
     ardors
     for something less unlovely? What girl will care
     for us, do you think, if we continue in these ways?
     Must you taste everything? Must you know everything?
     Must you have a part in everything? [4]
MK:  But this is our desire, and of its worth…[5]
WCW:                   But you got to try hard—
    But—
          Well, you know how
    the young girls run giggling
    on Park Avenue after dark
    when they ought to be home in bed?
    Well,
    that’s the way it is with me somehow.[6]
MK: in the streets
    the evenings domed with purple, the bones
    easing, the flesh slipping perfume upon the air :
    all surfaces of flight are pared to planes
    equal, equilibrated, solid in fulfillment. No way
    is wanted to escape, no explosions craved,
    only this desire must be met, this motion
    be balanced with passion…[7]
WCW: If you can bring nothing to this place
     but your carcass, keep out.[8]
MK:            how the veins were slit
into the Roman basins to fill Europe with blood
how our world has run over bloody with love and blood
and the misuses of love and blood and veins.
Now we arrive to meet ourselves at last,
we cry beginnings
the criers in the midnight streets call dawn ;
respond        respond
you workers poets men of science and love. [9]
WCW: you far off there under
     the wine-red selvage of the west!Writer’s Note: I must say, this post was surely an exercise in recognizing and deploying tone, if nothing else. For instance, when WCW interrupts MK in frustration, I had to think about how MK would respond to this tonal shift in conversation and which of her myriad lines would be most pertinent to this shift. On a gender level, this exercise made me re-evaluate the kind of interactions I expect men and women to have, i.e. who dominates/guides the conversation. Anyway, highly recommended exercise for any poet/writer who wishes to investigate tone in his/her own work and, of course, that of the Greats.


[1] From “Effort At Speech Between Two People”  

[2] From “El Hombre”

[3] From “Three Sides of a Coin”

[4] From “Smell!”

[5] From “The Gyroscope”

[6] From “January Morning”

[7] From “3/The Lover”

[8] From “Dedication for a Plot of Ground”

[9] From “Theory of Flight”

 

Writer’s Note: I must say, this post was surely an exercise in recognizing and deploying tone, if nothing else. For instance, when WCW interrupts MK in frustration, I had to think about how MK would respond to this tonal shift in conversation and which of her myriad lines would be most pertinent to this shift. On a gender level, this exercise made me re-evaluate the kind of interactions I expect men and women to have, i.e. who dominates/guides the conversation. Anyway, highly recommended exercise for any poet/writer who wishes to investigate tone in his/her own work and, of course, that of the Greats.

 

No Comments Yet

Leave a Comment