‘This Is Just To Say’ – William Carlos Williams

[  # 87 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]

Q. When is a mundane note not just a mundane note?
Q. When is a mundane note a poem?
Q. When is a scribbled note stuck on the fridge door to your wife a poem?

A. When William Carlos Williams writes it – as he did here, as long ago as 1934, when it suddenly  became, in 21st century jargon, ‘viral’.

The more times I read the poem below, the more I am able to see the depth in it.
Contentment in a relationship, acceptance, ease, familiarity, intimacy and even love are all here.

Note how pointedly the title becomes the first line . . .

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sliced fruits on pink ceramic plate

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This Is Just To Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably

saving

for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

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The effect of this poem may be enhanced by watching and listening to this YouTube video in which Matthew Macfadyen reads the poem ‘This Is Just To Say’

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WCWilliams

William Carlos Williams ( 1883 – 1963 ) had an English father and a Puerto Rican mother.  He grew up in Rutherford, New Jersey.   He was an American poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright. He was also a physician practising both paediatrics and general medicine.  With Ezra Pound and H.D.Williams he was a leading poet of the Imagist movement and often wrote of American subjects and themes. He became an inspiration to the Beat generation in the 1950s and 60s.  As in the poem above, his poetry was often domestic in focus and was described as “remarkable for its empathy, sympathy, its muscular and emotional identification with its subjects.”

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A Bag For Life

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A Bag For Life

Standing in the queue
at the checkout just last week
I chanced to hear the cashier
to a dear old lady speak,

“Well, my dear, I wonder
if you’d welcome one of these.
It’s called a ‘Bag For Life’,
and will take your goods with ease.”

To which that lady brightly,
with her tongue stuck in her cheek,
Says, “No thank you dear, you see
I’m only here one week.”

 

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The Borderlands of POETRY – 4

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POETRY AS DREAM

 

Poetry is my life revealed,
For there, in depth of thought,
Lie all my hopes, my dreams expressed
In words intense and tightly wrought.

Exploring what I hardly know,
Seeking as though dreaming,
I struggle to define my life,
Grasping for more meaning.

The confines of experience
I venture to pursue,
Defining life and love and death,
Their meaning to construe.

And when I’ve sifted every thought,
Mined the deepest seams,
I feel I’ve drained my Muse’s well,
Finding only dreams.

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The Borderlands of POETRY – 3

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PART THE THIRD

 

Poetry bestrides the boundary
Between certainty and supposition
Between what I know to be true
And what I know not
For imagination conducts me into new worlds
Lands of hope
Of surmise and conjecture
Where speculation surmounts reality
Where inference and suggestion rule
And life is vibrant and ever vital

 

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‘On Ageing Gloriously’ – REPRISE

[ Wednesday Replay # 4 ]
 
To counterbalance my poem ‘On Ageing Disgracefully’, re-published last Wednesday, I now re-present my upbeat version of old age, previously posted by me on  
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‘Old Age & Youth’ …  Pen and ink – WHB.  2017

ON AGEING GLORIOUSLY

Yes, I am getting older now; my prime has slipped away;
But I’m beating off the Harpies who want to bring doomsday.
But the benefits now brought about through all the new advances
Have brought about a change in me, at least they’ve upped my chances.

For, mine eyes have seen the glory never found since I was nine;
I ‘ve cast aside my spectacles reversing my decline.
I’ve got new eyes now, darling, and the cataracts have gone,
So despite my aged torso I will still keep staggering on.

And my new knees tell the story of my better prospects now;
I’m going to try the Great North Run if only they allow,
‘Cos I feel as though I’m twenty four and kicking down the door.
At least I’ll get a few years now before I need some more.

My metal hip has been replaced; I now have one in plastic;
It’s been a great success, although the experience was quite drastic.
I can hobble with the best of them and the stairs I cope with ease;
Yes, walking is a doddle now and life is just a breeze.

My hearing aid’s a bonus, I know what’s being said on telly.
My confidence I have regained, I’d rival Machiavelli;
The end still justifies the means; these life aids serve their purpose,
But instead of “Turn the volume up”, I’m wishing they were wordless.

My carpal tunnel surgery stopped my fingers feeling numb.
I’m twice the man I used to be, an artist I’ve become;
So now you see me in my prime reflecting on new marvels;
My hands are fully functional now; I have not lost my marbles.

My lumbar corset gives me an efficient spinal brace.
My posture’s as it should be now, no longer a disgrace.
I stand upright and hold my place wherever I may be,
Just the occasional little blip, one you’ll hardly ever see.

The wig I found provided me with a new lease of life;
No longer bald and reticent – I’ve got a new-found wife.
I’m wond’ring how surprised she’ll be when we get into bed,
Perhaps she’ll want a payback when she finds she’s been misled?

They gave me my libido back with just a small blue pill;
Revived my passion and my lust – be that for good or ill.
I must say I’m enjoying those long lost thrills again,
No longer from the Tantric Arts, do I have to abstain.

They now give me a freebie both for Christmas and tv
Free bus and tube rides I can get, I’ve become a devotee
Of touring round my city all the splendid sites to see
Suits me to be busy now at the age of eighty three.

A pension I am grateful for, although it’s not enough,
I paid my dues for forty years, I did think that was tough;
Yes, the National Health helps me a lot, I get my medicine free,
And if I want a pick-me-up, my nurse is good to me.

My mouth has been replenished with a set of new white teeth;
I thought it best to have that done before they bought my wreath.
I look forward to my time in Heaven, but perhaps it’s just as well,
That I can still enjoy life now – in case I go to Hell.

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Faustian Offers Refuted

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From ‘Le Triomphe de la Mort’ by Iean Holbein

FAUSTIAN OFFERS REFUTED

 

He has brought me here 
Recycled my life 
To revive my youth
Its promise given to me again 
To tempt my taste for change

Had it been different 
choices changed 
Those faustian offers not refuted 
Where would wishes 
Then rejected 
Have taken me

But I know 
I am no more fitted now
Than I was then  
To take the right course 
Choose the salient path

So once again I must reject the offer 
Renew my current course 
Leave longing for reason 
For that unknown and unknowing 
Certitude

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Early 20th Century Autograph Books

[ Wednesday Replay # 1 ] 

Previously published on Roland’s Ragbag on August 6th 2016 at:
‘Early 20th Century Autograph Books’


 

Autograph books, where they exist, are now used mainly for collecting the signatures ( or at least the scribbled ciphers) of the latest popular music or sports star.

Compare this scribble below by Wimbledon Champion, Andy Murray, in 2013, with, from my own autograph collection (of 2), this perfectly legible  autograph of England and Yorkshire batsman, Len Hutton, obtained in the 1940s . . .

100 years ago Autographs Books were primarily more for the collecting and usually exchanging, of aphorisms, homilies, comments,  pithy verses, simple drawings, personal messages, with friends and relatives.

These autograph books of the first half of the 20th Century, give a clear picture of the social mores and conventions of the time.  Their contents can be clearly seen as a means of passing popular wisdom on to subsequent generations. Nowadays they may be thought of by some as schmaltzy, even maudlin, but they do present a picture of the tastes and sentiments of that time and help to remind us of a much simpler and less cynical age.

 REPRODUCE BELOW, In Slide show format) SOME OF THE SKETCHES FROM MY OWN FAMILY’S AUTOGRAPH BOOKS – THE MAJORITY OF THE ENTRIES ARE DATED 1929.

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. . . AND HERE ARE THE TEXTS OF SOME OF THE MORE DISCERNING ENTRIES . . .


Beware sweet maid when men come to thee
And say they seek their soul’s affinity
When all they want, the base espousers,
Is someone to sew buttons on their trousers.


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‘Just a few lines from a would-be poet’


It’s very hard to find a friend
When your heart is full of hope.
It’s harder still to find a towel
When your eyes are full of soap.


In ascending the hill of prosperity
May you never meet a Friend


It’s not the one that knows the most
That has the most to say.
Nor yet the one that has the most
That gives the most away.


Love is like a mutton chop
Sometimes cold – Sometimes hot

Whether cold or whether hot
It’s not a thing to be forgot.


‘Taint what we have,
But what we give,
‘Taint what we are,
But how we live,
‘Taint what we do,
But how we do it,
That makes life worth
Going through it.


Make new friends but keep the old,
One is silver, the other gold;
Cheeks may wrinkle, hair grow grey,
But friendship never knows decay.


When the golden sun is sinking,
When your time from care is free,
When of others you are thinking,
Will you sometimes think of me?


Written in faltering, scratchy handwriting …

This is a damned bad pen you’ve given me!

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Hope In The Sea

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‘Ebb Tide’ … WHB  2017 ©

 

HOPE IN THE SEA

The promise of the sea
As it thrusts towards the shore
Is of resurgent love
And with it
the swell in my heart soars
Its tide in turn repeating
What once I had before
When life was young
And in its flow

Now as it ebbs
It is not easy
To renew that glow
Which once provided
all the hope
Of future bliss I ever needed
When sun kissed seas
Spoke loud their passion
Their cresting waves
Breaking one on one
In repeating fashion
Mirroring my wishes
Releasing desires
Bringing the froth and foam
Of hope
To these cool shores

Ribbed sand now reminds
Of what is yet to come
The ripples of my heartbeat
Become the breakers
bolstering my breath 
The thrill of expectation
Arriving with the tide

On what distant shores
have those same waves
Broken their strength
And torn in two
My harried heart

 

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‘Tales Once Told’ – A SONNET

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‘Contemplation: Rydal Water’ …  Pen&Ink – WHB

Tales Once Told

 

The rain-filled sky is bleak and sad today,
Its loaded clouds weep bitter joyless tears,
While winter winds arouse the foam-topped waves,
Seeking to prove the truth of all my fears.

Tears, as raindrops, fall when I feel sad.
I shed them as I think what might have been.
For fears that life, with time, is running out
Reflect on what my life has come to mean.

The joys of youth now turned to old age cares,
And I must be content that life was long.
So many of the friends who I once knew
Have now departed, lived, and sung their song.

But, I will join them in the realms of gold,
And we can reminisce on tales once told.

 

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‘Résumé’ by Dorothy Parker

[  # 78 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]

Dorothy Parker

From: Wikipedia

Dorothy Parker (1893 – 1967) was an American poet, writer, critic, and satirist, best known for her wit, wisecracks and eye for 20th-century urban foibles.

From a conflicted and unhappy childhood, Parker rose to acclaim, both for her literary output in publications such as The New Yorker and as a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table.  Following the breakup of the circle, Parker travelled to Hollywood to pursue screen-writing.  Her successes there, including two Academy Award nominations, were curtailed when her involvement in left-wing politics led to a place on the Hollywood blacklist.

Dismissive of her own talents, she deplored her reputation as a “wise-cracker.” Nevertheless, both her literary output and reputation for sharp wit have endured.


Résumé

Razors pain you;

Rivers are damp;

Acids stain you; And drugs cause cramp.

Guns aren’t lawful;

Nooses give;

Gas smells awful;

You might as well live.

 

Dorothy Parker 


 

[  From: ‘The Funny Side – 101 Humorous Poems’
– edited and with an introduction by Wendy Cope ]


There is intense irony as well as a bitingly black humour  in this short poem, which essentially lists some of the different ways of putting an end to an unhappy life.  The title, as well as the sudden, perhaps unexpected,  last line of the poem, however, gives the poem an up-beat conclusion.  It is a very clever ending, being both blasé and yet pointed at the same time.  The suggestion is that an unsatisfactory past, which reads like a death-wish CV, does not have to end with acceptance of the idea of suicide.  It is possible to move forward into a more positive future when the disadvantages of taking one’s own life are counteracted by more positive thoughts.


 

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