Thursday, May 27, 2010

Poet Beats Fire at Its Own Game!

Some thoughts on listening to the recent PoemTalk on Williams' "Red Wheelbarrow:" I was sitting over the piano last night trying to compose something to Williams' "Descent Beckons" passage of Paterson, with Morton Feldman's Triadic Memories playing in the background as possible inspiration. Everything I tried sounded no better than something you might hear on an overwrought PBS documentary on Williams (even though the one that does exist is good!) And as I started to ventriloquize Williams' patter-song in lieu of some, again overwrought, "new music"-type vocalization, I started to think, "where have I heard this before?" Sure enough, that part of Paterson is among his recordings on PennSound, where there is not one but NINE different versions of "The Descent," compared to four for "Red Wheelbarrow," and five for "This is Just to Say." So we may have to reassess what we consider to be Williams' chestnuts.
As well, I noticed that Williams uses the word "glaze" with a particular valence in Book III of Paterson that in some ways makes it a pointed response to the "glazed with rain/ water" of the RW: "An old bottle, mauled by the fire/ gets a new glaze, the glass warped/ to a new distinction, reclaiming the/ undefined" (118) This aspect of the bottle, transforming from sand to glass then into some "new distinction" by a less controlled, destructive fire puts it in contrast to the wheelbarrow that is glazed with rain water almost decoratively, highlighting the quiddity of the wheelbarrow with a special, almost coy, atmospheric effect. However, by this point in Paterson, Williams is less delicate with the "beautiful thing." In Books III and IV, it is not the material object that the poet must "amen" ("selah!" "so be it!") but rather the transformative energies that destroy and metamorphize matter. Release the Gamma Rays! So, taking Grenier as his invitation to replace the word "chickens" with something more piquant, how about:

so much depends
the red
glazed with
beside the white

My last Red Wheelbarrow reflection is brought to us by the gods of spam, through my Yahoo Pipes Williams/Paterson device. Here, a reflection on the RW, undoubtedly ripped from another, better formatted page, buttressed with posts on Adidas second quarter earnings and BEKO washing machine quality problems.
The name of the blog is "Letter," and somewhat bathetically, we are told that "Letter has'nt any friends yet." The tags for Williams' classic imagistic haiku . . . well we might as well just replace his original words with them, because they are . . . well, close enough . . .

and balls buy

clothes coat

friendly hamper


mannequin metal

rack racks

riding shelf

toy warehouse

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