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Personal Choice 28

William Carlos Williams


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.





The Red Wheelbarrow


So much depends

upon


a red wheel

barrow


glazed with rain

water


beside the white

chickens.


William Carlos Williams


William Carlos Williams (1883 - 1963) was an American poet, writer, and physician closely associated with modernism and imagism. In addition to his writing, Williams had a long career as a physician practicing both paediatrics and general medicine. He was affiliated with Passaic General Hospital, where he served as the hospital's chief of paediatrics from 1924 until his death. The hospital, which is now known as St. Mary's General Hospital, paid tribute to Williams with a memorial plaque that states. ‘We walk the wards that Williams walked’.

Thousands and thousands of words both academic and otherwise have been written about these two poems, particularly the latter. Claims concerning The Red Wheelbarrow being amongst the greatest modern poems in our canon can be found easily enough. In his Lettres Provinciales, the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal famously wrote to a friend, I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.’ This sentiment reflects both the value and the challenges of brevity. On the one hand, brevity forces us to cut excess - to distil a message to its core. On the other hand, being accurate, clear and concise can be hard, sometimes impossibly so.

The Red Wheelbarrow is an exemplar of this truth and also a superb poem.

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