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NaPoWriMo — April 29

 

John Roche shares “Spring and All” by William Carlos Williams, pediatrician/obstetrician in the Rutherford/Paterson area of New Jersey.  The poem brings a doctor’s detachment and observational acumen into that most common of poetic genres, the “arrival of spring” poem. The opening lines, “By the road to the contagious hospital,” signal that this is not going to be a cliché-ridden nature poem. Nor does the stark imagery that follows  (waste of broad, muddy fields / brown with dried weeds) leave much room for picturesque sentimentality. Williams’ use of precise, radical line-breaks and staccato rhythms is a surgical intervention that further roots out any trace of the comfortably iambic comforts. Still, and that word, “Still” is key to the last stanza, there is “the stark dignity of / entrance,” and with it,  an awakening analogous to the awakening to new possibilities of poetic form Dr. Williams wishes to impart.

Spring and All (By the Road to the Contagious Hospital) by William Carlos Williams

By the road to the contagious hospital

under the surge of the blue

mottled clouds driven from the

northeast-a cold wind.  Beyond, the

waste of broad, muddy fields

brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

 

patches of standing water

the scattering of tall trees

 

All along the road the reddish

purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy

stuff of bushes and small trees

with dead, brown leaves under them

leafless vines-

 

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish

dazed spring approaches-

 

They enter the new world naked,

cold, uncertain of all

save that they enter.  All about them

the cold, familiar wind-

 

Now the grass, tomorrow

the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf

One by one objects are defined-

It quickens:  clarity, outline of leaf

 

 

But now the stark dignity of

entrance-Still, the profound change

has come upon them:  rooted, they

grip down and begin to awaken

 **

 

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