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Intertextuality with William Carlos Williams

Diane Wakoski has said that she was significantly influenced by the highly acclaimed William Carlos Williams.  Both poets follow the mode of everyday, conversational diction as well is a strong focus of imagery. When reading both the works of both Wakoski and Williams, the poem itself easily creates a clear image for the reader. Wakoski also won the prestigious William Carlos Williams award by the American Poetry Society for her book Emerald Ice, showing that these poets obviously shared evident similarities.

It has been said that Williams used the “plain American form [of poetry] in which dogs and cats could read,” which is much like Wakoski’s method of using non-complex language and more of a simplistic style of writing. Though Wakoski’s poetry may not have been quite as simple as some of William’s genius poems such as “The Red Wheelbarrow”, her use of imagism and eloquent word choice makes for a inspiring read.

According to the blog Poetry Dispatch and Other Notes from the Underground, Williams had a considerable influence on the poets of the Beat Generation. As I have focused on in previous posts, Wakoski was a prominent writer and during the Beat Generation, which is when she did a majority of her “experimenting” and most acclaimed writing.  Some of William’s writing was extremely expressive and open, much like Wakoski’s pattern of intense self-expression and “confessional” writing. In his comical and definitely expressive poem Danse Russe, Williams “confesses” through expressive poetry and basic language a guilty pleasure.

Danse Russeby William Carlos Williams

If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,-
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,-

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

An Excerpt from Wakoski’s I Have Learned To Live With My Face

My face
that my friends tell me is so full of character;
my face
I have hated for so many years;
my face
I have made an angry contract to live with
though no one could love it;
my face that I wish you would bruise and batter
and destroy, napalm it, throw acid on it,
so that I might have another
or be rid of it at last.

When comparing the poem “Danse Russe” and others like it by Williams to those of Wakoski’s, a main connection I note is the use of imagism and a “confessional” pattern. Though the mood of each is quite opposite, they still share similarities in terms of expression. I mentioned in a previous post the idea that reading some of Wakoki’s works is similar to reading a person’s diary. When I read her poem “I Have Learned to Live With My Face”, it left me feeling like I had been exposed to Wakoski’s deep and innermost feelings, like I had been reading her diary. I am left with similar feelings after reading “Danse Russe”. His declaration of his somewhat alter-ego ritual was like the unleashing of a secret.


One Response to “Intertextuality”

  1. Jane Hazle says:

    I can definitely see the connection between Danse Russe and the Wakoski poem about her face. Good work finding two poems that intersect so well. The link has some interesting further information about Williams and some high resolution photographs that I have not seen before. Good with thematic and style connections between the poets/poems.

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