Spatial Rhythm and Poetic Invention in William Carlos Williams' Sunday in the Park

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William Carlos Williams was fascinated by the ways in which living organisms and inert matter occupy space--how they move in it, or cannot move, are cramped or allowed to roam freely--and how the space inside organisms and matter is charted, perceived, and manipulated. Williams's preoccupation with actual space in the material world is paralleled by his formal experimentations with the placement of words on the page. "Without invention nothing is well spaced" (P 50), Williams writes at the beginning of "Sunday in the Park," raising the question, what does "well spaced" mean for Williams? How can the world and how can poetry be well spaced? The aim of this paper is to look at the relationship between Williams's use of what I will call …show more content…
In the opening lines of "Sunday in the Park," Dr. P.'s walk through the park becomes a metaphor not only for sexual intercourse but for poetic production:

Outside outside myself there is a world, he rumbled, subject to my incursions
(to me) at rest, which I approach concretely-- The scene's the Park upon the rock, female to the city
--upon whose body Paterson instructs his thoughts
The link between walking, coitus, and creativity is part of a larger framework in "Sunday" in which biological processes and various kinds of movement through space--what I am calling spatial rhythms -- are used to explore the nature of poetry.

One only has to look at the configuration of words on the page to know that for Williams "well spaced" involves not regularity but constant change and surprise. Williams's manipulation of space, both on the page and in the Park, is, in this section of Paterson, the main tool used to create the structure that M. L. Rosenthal and Sally Gall have described as characteristic of the modern poetic sequence, a structure that is not predominantly narrative or dramatic, but lyrical, "a progression of specific qualities and intensities."[1] This rhythm corresponds to a cyclicity of mood that can be described as manic-depresive or, to use Rosenthal's and Gall's term, cyclothymic.[2] Corresponding to this constantly changing tone is a space that is
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