Two Poets: An Appreciation

Below, in the immediately preceding post, you have a very well-known poem by William Carlos Williams, together with a response from a certain Louise Hardeman Abbot. His poem appeared first without title in Spring and All from 1923. Her poem — I think that I may be related to this Louise Abbot; oh, yeah, that’s right: she’s my mother — appeared in The Georgia Review in 1987.

 

Isn’t it marvelous how Abbot offers both an homage and a kind of riposte to Williams? “So much depends,” he says. On what? The sensible world, of course, as my mother agrees in part (“‘Oh Lord, the sensible world!'”), but not without a gentle and gently comic reminder that so much depends, too, on “where you stand.” These are poems that sidle up to a very large question, one that I touched on in yet another post from earlier today and have done in still earlier ones: what is this thing we call “the world”?

 

In “Homage,” Abbot offers us, in such delicious language — don’t you just love the image of the slack-mouthed child whose bare legs dangle over the edge of Williams’ empty wheelbarrow, and aren’t you smiling when you see through that child’s eyes those “chickens as stallions,”* and don’t you get a shiver at the genius of “through lace curtains / brush strokes of red and white” — not a somewhat chilly modernism (“No ideas but in things!”) but a warm, vernacular world that (if you’re at all like me) you want to escape into.

 

No, WCW, we don’t see the world in high-def. We see it through lace curtains, if we see it at all (“a man / going blind”). That’s what I think, too, Mama.

 

And if we don’t occasionally feel a shiver down our spines and cry out at the sight and sound and touch (those “worn tools,” for example) of this world, what a shame. What grief, what sorrow.

 

More in a bit, with reference to a short story I think you should read, if you haven’t already.

 

*Simply to amuse, and not because it bears on “Homage” at all, I will tell you that as a girl, my mother had an imaginary pet hen. Her mother and grandmother were always sitting on it, I’m sorry to report. I’m not sure how much and how long they humored her cries of protest.

 

From "Notes from the Top of My Hand"

From “Notes from the Top of My Hand”

 

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