William Carlos Williams' This is Just to Say Essay

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William Carlos Williams' This is Just to Say

poem (p m) – noun:
1. A verbal composition designed to convey experiences, ideas, or emotions in a vivid and imaginative way, characterized by the use of language chosen for its sound and suggestive power and by the use of literary techniques such as meter, metaphor, and rhyme.
2. A composition in verse rather than in prose.
3. A literary composition written with an intensity or beauty of language more characteristic of poetry than of prose.

-- The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, there are three
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Admittedly, form, length and literary devices are not requisite to a poem, as many fine free verse poems illustrate, but this poem does not compensate for its lack of structure by enhancing its other aspects. In Mary Oliver’s poem “Morning,” there are no devices aside from alliteration, yet Oliver’s poem is much more complex and interesting for other reasons. The imagery is more artistic, the words more creative, the syntax more fluid. Oliver describes the “linoleum,” the “wild words,” and the “curvaceous response” of the “lightly leaping” cat. The only adjectives Williams uses, “delicious,” “sweet,” and “cold,” are so common as to have been rendered banal in every reader’s mind. Rather than making “the ordinary appear extraordinary through the clarity and discreteness of his imagery,” as the Encyclopaedia Britannica asserts, Williams succeeds only in making the ordinary appear—well, ordinary.

In fact, the whole poem is rather dull. There is no intrigue, no unusual phrase which catches the attention, no unexpected-yet-perfect images such as Emily Dickinson’s idea of “quartz contentment” in her poem “After great pain, a formal feeling comes—.” One might argue that Dickinson’s poem would naturally be more weighty because she was discussing a “great pain,” yet it is neither the simplicity of Williams’ poem nor the
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