William Carlos Williams Homepage

WALT WHITMAN, JOURNAL ENTRY, 1850's:

"Make no quotations and no references to other writers . . . take no illustrations whatsoever from the ancients or classics . . . nor from the royal and aristocratic institutions and forms of Europe. Make no mention or allusion to them whatsoever, except as they relate to the new, present things – to our country – to American character or interests."

WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS, from The Autobiography:
"Then out of the blue The Dial brought out The Waste Land and all our hilarity ended. It wiped out our world as if an atom bomb had been dropped upon it and our brave sallies into the unknown were turned to dust.
       "To me especially it struck like a sardonic bullet. I felt at once that it had set me back twenty years, and I'm sure it did. Critically Eliot returned us to the classroom just at the moment when I felt that we were on the point of an escape to matters much closer to the essence of a new art form itself – rooted in the locality which should give it fruit. I knew at once that in certain ways I was most defeated.
       "Eliot had turned his back on the possibility of reviving my world. And being an accomplished craftsman, better skilled in some ways than I could ever hope to be, I had to watch him carry my world off with him, the fool, to the enemy."
WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS, from a letter:
"The poem, to me (until I go broke) is an attempt, an experiment, a failing experiment, toward assertion with broken means but an assertion, always, of a new and total culture, the lifting of an environment to expression. Thus it is social, the poem is a social instrument."

THE ROSE

The rose is obsolete
but each petal ends in
an edge, the double facet
cementing the grooved
columns of air – The edge
cuts without cutting
meets – nothing – renews
itself in metal or porcelain –

whither? It ends –

But if it ends
the start is begun
so that to engage roses
becomes a geometry –

Sharper, neater, more cutting
figured in majolica –
the broken plate
glazed with a rose

Somewhere the scene
makes copper roses
steel roses –

The rose carried weight of love
but love is at an end – of roses

It is at the edge of the
petal that love waits

Crisp, worked to defeat
laboredness – fragile
plucked, moist, half-raised
cold, precise, touching

What

The place between the petal's
edge and the

From the petal's edge a line starts
that being of steel
infinitely fine, infinitely
rigid penetrates
the Milky Way
without contact – lifting
from it – neither hanging
nor pushing
The fragility of the flower
unbruised
penetrates space


[1923]
Juan Gris, "Flowers" (1914)


SOURCE: Juan Gris, by Christopher Green (London:
Whitechapel Art Gallery in Association with Yale
University Press, 1992).


Williams says he only saw a black-and-white
reproduction of this painting before writing
the poem, so here's Gris' "Flowers" that way: