ENG 162 Fall 2013

ENG 162 at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor ME, taught by John A. (Don't ever, ever ask!) Goldfine johngoldfine@gmail.com

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Another take on vignettes:

William Carlos Williams at his house in Rutherford, New Jersey, 1954
so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white
This is not Williams’s best or most important poem, but it does illustrate some crucial aspects of his art. In hisAutobiography (1951), Williams explains that his goal as a writer is to capture the “immediacy” of experience: “It is an identifiable thing, and its characteristic, its chief character is that it is sure, all of a piece and, as I have said, instant and perfect: it comes, it is there, and it vanishes. But I have seen it, clearly. I have seen it.” This is just what he does with the wheelbarrow, the rainwater, and the chickens: trivial in themselves, their sheer uninsistent presence strikes the reader as somehow disclosing the very essence of being. ...
Williams himself, not given to making high claims for his own work, considered this poem “quite perfect”: “the sight impressed me as about the most important, the most integral that it had ever been my pleasure to gaze upon.”

Most important of all, however, is the wager with the reader introduced in the first line. If you don’t understand why “so much depends” on this quotidian scene, Williams is not going to tell you. As a result, the reader’s ability to intuit the poet’s meaning becomes a kind of test of spiritual fineness, a conspiracy of meaning. 

--Adam Kirsch, New York Review of Books
This is about a poem, not a prose vignette, and I don't welcome poetry in 162,. but the material I've highlighted is directly related to what vignettes are all about.


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