SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS

THE WIDOW’S LAMENT IN SPRINGTIME

by William Carlos Williams

Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.
Thirtyfive years
I lived with my husband.
The plumtree is white today
with masses of flowers.
Masses of flowers
load the cherry branches
and color some bushes
yellow and some red
but the grief in my heart
is stronger than they
for though they were my joy
formerly, today I notice them
and turned away forgetting.
Today my son told me
that in the meadows,
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them.

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) was a doctor and an American poet. His literary friends and contemporaries included Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and Hilda Doolittle (“H.D.”). Pound in particular was a great influence on Williams’ life, arranging for Williams in 1913 the publication of Williams’ second collection, The Tempers. Throughout his career Williams published in small magazines and was a prolific poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright. Following Pound, he was one of the principal poets of the Imagist movement, though as time went on, he began to disagree with the values put forth in the work of Pound and Eliot. Williams therefore sought to invent an entirely fresh—and singularly American—poetic, whose subject matter was centered on the everyday circumstances of life and the lives of common people. His influence as a poet spread slowly during the twenties and thirties, overshadowed, he felt, by the immense popularity of Eliot’s “The Waste Land”; however, his work received increasing attention in the 1950s and 1960s as younger poets, including Allen Ginsberg and the Beats, were impressed by the accessibility of his language and his openness as a mentor. Williams wrote until his death in New Jersey in 1963.

Editor’s Note: “The Widow’s Lament in Springtime” is one of Williams’ better known works. A lot of scholarly attention has been paid to the piece, and today when a poet writes of death and grief this poem is often turned to as a reference point. My personal favorite poem, “At Night the States” by Alice Notley, is one such poem wherein the poet explores her grief over the loss of her husband. This poem can hardly be discussed without being held against the backdrop of “The Widow’s Lament in Springtime.”

Want to read more by and about William Carlos Williams?
Poets.org
Poetry Foundation
Modern American Poetry
Penn Sound


About Sivan Butler-Rotholz

Sivan is the Managing Editor of the Saturday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be and holds an MFA from Brooklyn College. She is a professor, writer, editor, comic artist, and attorney emerita. She is also the founder of Reviving Herstory. Sivan welcomes feedback, poetry submissions, and solicitations of her writing via email at sivan.sf [at] gmail [dot] com.
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3 Responses to SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS

  1. nan says:

    This was very thought provoking and i could relate. we’ll be married 35 years this year and i couldn’t imagine life without him.

  2. Maya Elashi says:

    today my son told me that in the meadows, at the edge of the heavy woods … he saw trees of white flowers

    what an extraordinarily beautiful line!

  3. Nate says:

    I just came to look at the latest poetry series presentation and realized it’s only Friday, not Saturday! I’m glad I came though – this one is worth reading again.

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