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Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems
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The Monday Poem > "The Ivy Crown" by William Carlos Williams (July 23 '18)

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Greg | 7264 comments Mod
The Ivy Crown

by William Carlos Williams

The whole process is a lie
   unless,
      crowned by excess,
it break forcefully,
   one way or another,
      from its confinement--
or find a deeper well.
   Anothy and Cleapatra
      were right;
they have shown
   the way. I love you
      or I do not live
at all.

Daffodil time
   is past. This is
      summer, summer!
the heart says
   and not even the full of it.
      No doubts
are permitted--
   though they will come
      and may
before our time
   overwhelm us.
      We are only mortal
but being mortal
   can defy our fate.
      We may
by an outside chance
   even win! We do not
      look to see
jonquils and violets
   come again
      but there are
still,
   the roses!

Romance has no part in it.
   The business of love is
      cruelty which
by our wills,
   we transform
      to live together.
It has its seasons,
   for and against,
      whatever the heart
fumbles in the dark
   to assert
      toward the end of May.
Just as the nature of briars
   is to tear flesh,
      I have proceeded
through them.
   Keep
      the briars out,
they say.
   You cannot live
      and keep free of
briars.

Children pick flowers.
   Let them.
      Though having them
in hand
   they have no further use for them
      but leave them crumpled
at the curb's edge.

At our age the imagination
   across the sorry facts
      lifts us
to make roses
   stand before thorns.
      Sure
love is cruel
   and selfish
      and totally obtuse--
at least, blinded by the light,
   young love is.
      But we are older,
I to love
   and you to be loved,
      we have,
no matter how,
   by our wills survived
      to keep
the jeweled prize
   always
      at our finger tips.
We will it so
   and so it is
      past all accident.


B the BookAddict (bthebookaddict) | 8315 comments Gosh, that is both brilliant and beautiful, Greg. Thanks.


message 3: by Greg (last edited Jul 24, 2018 02:04PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
B the BookAddict wrote: "Gosh, that is both brilliant and beautiful, Greg. Thanks."

Thanks Bette! :)

I do love it and the book it comes from (Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems) - the second half has many poems on mature love, the love of a lifelong partner as one ages. It's really lovely because he doesn't fully idealize, but I can feel the strength of his feeling in them.

There are many poets who write strirringly of love and infatuation in youth, but these Williams poems have a perspective that's different in ways I find endearing.


message 4: by Alannah (new)

Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 11466 comments Mod
A lovely poem, I love the floral imagery that comes through strongly. Thanks for posting, Greg.


Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Alannah wrote: "A lovely poem, I love the floral imagery that comes through strongly. Thanks for posting, Greg."

Thanks Alannah! :)


message 6: by Joan (new)

Joan I like the many ways he weaves the analogy of young love and spring flowers vs mature love and briar roses - the analogy is simple and obvious but he develops it in unexpected ways.

“Daffodil time is past”

“ You cannot live and keep free of briars”


It seemed old fashioned in some ways but then surprised me with “love is obtuse” which seemed a more contemporary phrase.


message 7: by Joan (new)

Joan Writers of poetry, please comment on his use of exclamation points.
They sort of distracted me as I was reading and disrupted my rhythm - like a little frolic breaking out.


message 8: by Greg (last edited Jul 26, 2018 08:18PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Joan wrote: "I like the many ways he weaves the analogy of young love and spring flowers vs mature love and briar roses - the analogy is simple and obvious but he develops it in unexpected ways.

“Daffodil time..."


Definitely Joan!

What I like most though is the value he sees in the difficulty of mature love. The young throw away the flowers after picking them, but this pressing through the thorns yields something more precious and "real," the "jeweled prize ... at our finger tips."

I love the very simple lines:

"You cannot live
and keep free of
briars."

It's true - to truly live, you have to press through them.

It's quite old fashioned but endearing, the clinging to belief in a love that lasts, one that can persist despite (and perhaps even because of) difficulties.


message 9: by Joan (new)

Joan This site has the poem laid out in Williams’ signature 3-step line and with his capitalization. I found the exclamation points made more sense - or perhaps I am just getting used to them.

https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/pu...


message 10: by Greg (last edited Jul 26, 2018 08:14PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Joan wrote: "This site has the poem laid out in Williams’ signature 3-step line and with his capitalization. I found the exclamation points made more sense - or perhaps I am just getting used to them.

https://..."


Thanks Joan! I found it difficult to get the spacing right on Goodreads - it likes to remove whitespace. :) I do think the spacing makes a difference in how the eye perceives it. I do definitely prefer the 3-step line spacing - it gives a feeling of flow & movement.

As far as the capitalization, oddly the published book Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems by the reputable publishing house New Directions (that publishes quite a lot of modern poetry) follows the capitalization as I posted it. That's where I got it from.

I wonder if he added or removed capitalizations at some point or if it was an editorial decision?

The all-caps words delineate the "stanzas" better, though I guess in the book that is done by the extra whitespace line.


message 11: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Joan wrote: "Writers of poetry, please comment on his use of exclamation points.
They sort of distracted me as I was reading and disrupted my rhythm - like a little frolic breaking out."


It is a bit odd for poetry since emphasis is usually coveyed by rhythm & stress rather than exclamation points. Other poets do weird punctuation things too though; Emily Dickenson has notoriously weird uses of dashes and other punctuation.

Maybe in the proper 3-step line spacing, your eye carries past them easier because of the impression of movement?

I don't know - it didn't bother me, but Williams' poetry is odd in many ways; so maybe I just went with it. :)


message 12: by Joan (new)

Joan I read that Williams sought to highlight the visual aspect of poetry.
The poem demonstrates that.

My favorite poets are Yeats, Joyce and Frost; they all really emphasize the sound of the words.

Thanks for introducing me to a new side of poetry.


message 13: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Joan wrote: "I read that Williams sought to highlight the visual aspect of poetry.
The poem demonstrates that.

My favorite poets are Yeats, Joyce and Frost; they all really emphasize the sound of the words.

T..."


I think that's true Joan - the visual aspect is certainly something he worked with.

I think though that he also wrote poems that attempt to approximate the rhythms of everyday American speech. So he was certainly interested in the rhythm - it was not completely free form in rhythm - though he was doing something completely different and not nearly as "poetic" or apparent as classic poetic meters.

To tell the truth I sometimes struggle to identify the exact meter and stress of classic poems, even though I can certainly hear in the cadence that there is a clear structure to the rhythm. The cadence can affect me even though my ear isn't tuned enough to pick out all the nuances.

With Willians I can generally still feel a regularity, though much less pronounced.

This article from the NY Times was interesting I think: https://www.nytimes.com/1983/09/18/bo...


message 14: by Joan (new)

Joan Very interesting Greg. I’ve never studied poetry so the terms feet, meter iambs etc. sort of whiz around in my head - I will have to go over the article again slowly.

but I did understand the bit about American vs British speech patterns ( I hear that in My transatlantic family) and I felt William’s American idiom when I read the poem.


message 15: by Darrick (new)

Darrick Williams | 34 comments This poem is skillfully written. I like the way William Carlos Williams articulate the depth of love in this poems by using Antony and Cleopatra love for each other. The way he also use the flowers to illustrate the change of seasons.

The use of the rose, briars and thorns illustrate how pain and cruelty comes with love. This was a nice poem, however, the line break didn’t work well for me. Although I first read it the way William Carlos Williams intended it; I rearranged some words to get a better feel.

In the end, it’s the message you get from the poem that counts. Thanks for posting Greg.


message 16: by Joan (new)

Joan I wonder if my feeling about this poem would have been very different years ago. Now that my husband and I have passed middle age, I find great comfort in love poetry that speaks to love in the summer and fall of life.
I’m still in denial about impending winter!


message 17: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Darrick wrote: "This poem is skillfully written. I like the way William Carlos Williams articulate the depth of love in this poems by using Antony and Cleopatra love for each other. The way he also use the flowers..."

Thanks Darrick!


message 18: by Greg (last edited Jul 28, 2018 10:54AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Joan wrote: "I wonder if my feeling about this poem would have been very different years ago. Now that my husband and I have passed middle age, I find great comfort in love poetry that speaks to love in the sum..."

Possibly Joan or possibly it's just not for you.

I know that there are definitely different poems that speak to me at different times in my life. And the conventional imagery in this poem would usually not draw me much - I usually prefer fresh, vivid imagery, used in unexpected ways, such as the last poem you posted. But for some reason, the simplicity in this poem appealed to me.

I do think other poem in the last section of the book are better, but the best are extremely long and complex, full of references to many myths.


message 19: by Joan (new)

Joan Well you’ve convinced me to read some more William Carlos Williams.


message 20: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Joan wrote: "Well you’ve convinced me to read some more William Carlos Williams."

:)


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

I love the meaning behind the poem and the flower imagery.

I love the last stanza

"But we are older,
I to love
and you to be loved,
we have,
no matter how,
by our wills survived
to keep
the jeweled prize
always
at our finger tips.
We will it so
and so it is
past all accident"

To me, this shows the joy of love- when you have gone through difficulties with each other but you have got through them. I think this is a realistic poem which describes the ups and downs of life and love without being over-sentimental.

However, I did find it quite difficult to read. I have to be honest, I don't like the structure of the poem. I found the white spacing disorientating when I read it on the website and the rhythm slightly off-putting. I think it's a lack of understanding on my part but something I am trying to develop as I read more poetry


message 22: by Joan (new)

Joan Heather wrote: "I love the meaning behind the poem and the flower imagery.

I love the last stanza

"But we are older,
I to love
and you to be loved,
we have,
no matter how,
by our wills survived
to keep
the..."


I had a hard time with it, too, that is why I read a bit about Williams. Apparently, in some of his poems he tried to replicate the rhythm of American speech at that time - I wonder if that makes it trickier for us today.


message 23: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Heather wrote: "I love the meaning behind the poem and the flower imagery.

I love the last stanza

"But we are older,
I to love
and you to be loved,
we have,
no matter how,
by our wills survived
to keep
the..."


I think that could be Heather & Joan, the rhythm is not the usual poetic rhythms; so maybe it takes getting used to? I didn't find it offputting myself, but maybe after reading so many of his poems together in the book I just got into the groove of it?


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