William Carlos Williams and Erica Lewis

As I was reading William Carlos Williams poem “The Descent” I noticed two things. One: the way he physically structures the poem almost reminds me of a descending staircase. Each couplet of lines slowly descends until there is a break and Williams starts a new couplet and repeats the process. When I am reading poetry and there seems to be random breaks in lines and words I always wonder why the poet did that. What is the purpose and how does it add meaning to the poem? Although I don’t have any insightful comment about the descending lines in this poem, there seems to be a definite connection between the use of spacial imagery throughout the poem and the physical spacing of the words on the page. Okay, number two: I also felt an emotional descent as I read this poem. Williams starts off the poem saying, “The descent beckons / as the ascent beckoned.” Then he proceeds to talk about memory and love, but the words he uses almost feel like an ascent. He says, “love wakens” and then in the next couplet says, “Love without shadows stirs now / beginning to awaken / as night / advances.” The word “wakens” and “awaken” do not give me a feeling of descent. However, Williams seems to do a 180 in the last section moving the reader towards an emotional descent unlike he had been doing thus far. Williams ends his poem saying, “For what we cannot accomplish, what / is denied to love, / what we have lost in the anticipation – / a descent follows, / endless and indestructible.” The positive language is replaced by words like “lost,” “denied,” and “endless” and Williams uses this change in language along with the spacial imagery and physical structure of the poem to create an emotional descent in the reader.

Erica Lewis in her book daryl hall is my boyfriend, also structures her poems in a strange way. She off sets sentences from each other, puts words and phrases in brackets, and puts slashes in the middle of sentences. However, despite the strange structure, the content is not strange at all. It is at times intensely relatable, like she took my thoughts and made them poetic. In her poem, “but when you play in a quiet way that bites it even more” she says, “like if you stub your toe, the rest of your body hurts / the sensitivity, the circumstances / we’re not always good at figuring out what makes us happy / and no one ever talks about that shit, or goes to church it it / ‘nobody ever talks about the clouds, how ever cloud looks different’ / how life shapes and re-shapes us.” These lines connect with me and make me feel as if I understand the poem. But then the structure throws me off and makes me wonder if I’m missing something, some integral part of the poem’s meaning. It is harder for me to connect the structure and the content in Lewis’s poems than in Williams “The Descent” and in both cases I’m still searching for the meaning.

 

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