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Friday, 29 August 2014

“This is Just to Say”

Born and died in Rutherford, New Jersey 1883 -1963
“This is Just to Say”  by  William Carlos Williams
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

This absolutely brilliant little gem of a poem by William Carlos Williams is a masterpiece in saying a lot with a few words. There is a whole back-story that you simply can't help hearing when you read it. One imagines it as being a scribbled note left on the kitchen work-surface and it speaks of some kind of blissfully happy domestic situation. You can taste the plums and somehow you know that she won't be angry when she reads the note. Apparently she wrote a reply:

Dear Bill: I've made a
couple of sandwiches for you.
In the ice-box you'll find
blue-berries--a cup of grapefruit
a glass of cold coffee.

On the stove is the tea pot
with enough tea leaves
for you to make tea if you
prefer--Just light the gas--
boil the water and put it in the tea

Plenty of bread in the bread-box
and butter and eggs--
I didn't know just what to 
make for you. Several people 
called up about office hours--

See you later. Love. Floss.

Please switch off the telephone.

This is very sweet and also, in it's way, tells a bigger story. I love the last line about switching off the telephone.
Some may ask whether "This is Just to Say" is really a poem at all but have no doubt that it is a great one. The lines all appear to be fairly similar but they contains lots of different metres but, somehow, it still seems to have a kind of rhythm  when read. Incidentally, I think the first line can be read as a part of the poem. This poem has probably been over analysed since being written in 1934; it has even suggested that it's sub-text is about sexual frustration!
I prefer just to read it and smile.
Continuing my experiment of naming the music I am listening to while posting or commenting - right now it's: Leonard Cohen's 'Suzanne'.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bazza - what a fun snippet of life and their relationship ... obviously full of fun and love. Good to have read and thanks for highlighting ...

Love 'Suzanne' and Leonard Cohen's works ... cheers Hilary

bazza said...

Hi Hilary It is fun and tells of a stable relationship I think. It's the poetic equivalent of Pierre Bonnard painting!

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Yes, some things can be over-analyzed. I enjoyed it because of the care and sweetness I hear in their words. It was a nice poem for me to wake up to this morning.

David said...

Hi bazza,
I was introduced to Williams' poetry at high school, where we studied "The Red Wheelbarrow". I remember lots of the students in my class being somewhat, shall we say, confused by Williams' imagism! I later went on to discover more Imagist poetry at university. I particularly remember one - something about people waiting for a train being like "petals on a wet black bough". Great stuff!
Best Wishes,

All Consuming said...

Interesting. Simple and effective as you say. I have not heard of him, I shall explore further. Always good to read new poetry, or old for that matter :)

bazza said...

Arleen. It might (a bit) nice to come downstairs and find it stuck to the fridge!

bazza said...

David: Williams was a family doctor and a part-time poet who, I think, doesn't get much recognition this side of the Atlantic.

bazza said...

AC: There is, naturally lots of his stuff to be found on the Internet.

joanne fox said...

I can never decide if this is poetry or not. Same with his one about the wheelbarrow. Either way, it's a pleasing arrangement of words and you'd just have to forgive him for eating the plums!

bazza said...

Hi Joanne. One definition of poetry on the net is "Literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm." I think this piece meets those criteria.
Continuing my new experiment of naming the music I am listening to while posting or commenting - right now it's: Amoureuse by Kiki Dee...”I feel the rainfall of another planet” Listen on You Tube:
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

John said...

Hi Bazza,
I am afraid that I saw it stuck on the fridge, but I suppose that's because that is where me and my better half sometimes leave notes. Nothing like the ones you have mentioned, just a shopping list, or the dinner is in the dog, that sort of thing!

bazza said...

Well John, it was a genuine note left for his wife but, being the poet that he was, it became magical.
I see that your notes are not without humour!

klahanie said...

Ah, my esteemed chap!

Yes indeed, now that my plums are getting prepped for a procedure, I thought I should at least have a quick visit to your site. I was moved by what I read. A brilliant little gem, indeed. Nuff said, methinks...

Toodle pip, bazza old boy!

Gary :)

bazza said...

Gazza! How nice to hear from you!
I am sure your plums will turn out to be cold and delicious too. I hope all goes well and things are settling down at home for you.
Listening to Barber's Adagio for Strings, Leonard Bernstein & New York Philharmonic.

loverofwords said...

So glad to be back blogging. But now the font is all messed up, you can see by the print. Everything I write looks different. Back to the tech "experts." But the poem-- Elegant really, to have a poem written for me would be heaven. Was he a doctor and wrote on those small prescription pads? I think I read that somewhere. And in honor of your epigraph, I wrote my blog about them.

bazza said...

Hi Natasha, welcome back. Apologies for the delay in replying -I just got back from 12 days in Alcudia, Mallorca. I know that Williams was a GP. In which case I am amazed that his wife was able to read his handwriting!
Here’s poem for you:
“This is just to say
Sorry, I’ve been away.
Just got back today.
Our poet was a GP
So it’s hard to see
How his poem was read by she!”