Friday, April 23, 2010

Williams Guide Questions

American Literature Williams Guide Questions

1. Williams felt that American speech was distinct from English: how does his poetry idioms, syntax, and punctuation to suggest these unique qualities? To what extent does he capture the rhythms of American speech?

2. What is the main image used in “Spring and All”? How is the poem developed through contrasts? What stylistic devices does Williams use to create a feeling of nervous excitement? (Notice, for example, his use of word connotations and his delay of the main verb until line 15; consider connotation, rhythm, the relation of syntax to verse line)

3. What is the principal image of “Spring and All”? Spring? Its emergence? Nature ruined by urban industrialism?

4. What is the relevance of the first line of “Spring and All”?

5. What are the strengths and/or limitations you find in “The Red Wheelbarrow” as imagist poetry? Can only the poet really know what mental associations are involved--how much “depends,” or can the poem be appreciated as a way to appreciate the beauty and significance of ordinary objects—or do you think the value of the poem lies elsewhere?

6. Is it likely that the majority of those who read “The Red Wheelbarrow” would regard it as a successful poem, or not? Why?

7. Notice the rhythms of the lines. “The Red Wheelbarrow” is largely iambic. But the final word in each of the last three stanzas is trochaic: "barrow," "water," and "chickens." What is the effect of the shift in stress patterns?

8. To what extent can “This is Just to Say” be considered an effective example of imagist poetry?

9. William Carlos Williams explained his most famous dictum, "No ideas but in things," as follows: “The poet does not ... permit himself to go beyond the thought to be discovered in the context of that with which he is dealing.... Not to talk in vague categories, but to write particularly, as a physician works, upon a patient, upon the thing before him, in the particular to discover the universal.” It has been said that, “One of the qualities which keeps Williams from pessimism is his faith in the sensual, the earthy, the real. He is firm in his conviction that everything in existence is good in its own right, even a plum, stolen in an early-morning icebox raid, becomes a statement on the sweetness of life.” To what extent do you find this philosophical position illustrated in “This is Just to Say”?

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