Wednesday, February 5, 2014

WCW’s stars

From poem XII in William Carlos Williams’s Spring and All (1923), a cubist rendering of a catch-all box and its contents:

But the stars
are round
with a tin edge

and a ring
to fasten them
to a trunk
for the vacation —
These lines seem to puzzle close readers. Marjorie Perloff, writing in The Poetics of Indeterminacy: Rimbaud to Cage (1981):
Finally, and most confusing, are the “stars” made of “round / cardboard / with a tin edge” inside the box or do they decorate its surface? How and why would one fasten “them” as opposed to “it” (the box) “to a trunk / for the vacation”?
It’s not that confusing. The stars are inside the box. A office-supplies-minded reader will recognize them as paper key tags. These objects must have served as luggage tags back in the day.

To say that the image is not confusing does nothing to detract from the work of the imagination (the work of “seeing-as”) in these lines. Recall William Blake, who saw a world in a grain of sand.

Related reading
Other OCA WCW posts (Pinboard)

comments: 2

Elaine said...

Hmm. I thought the 'stars' (best find, most interesting items) in the catch-all [box/drawer/basket] were immediately identifiable. (Is this age-related?)

We need a thornier mystery than that, we oldsters, eh?

Michael Leddy said...

I wonder. Marjorie Perloff is older than either of us. :)