Title: Collected Poems II (1939-1962)
Author: William Carlos Williams
Page Count/Review Word Count: 558
Well, here we go – this is the last review that I have to write for the site, and once I finish this off, I’m done – I’ll have reviewed every book that I’ve ever read, and I’ll only have to worry about reviewing the books that I read in the future. Awesome!
I’ve read both of William Carlos Williams’ Collected Poems books, and whilst they are pretty heavy going at 558 pages, they’re a lot of fun and you enjoy every step of the way. Williams had a gift for using evocative language, and even when he’s not giving you concrete details, you still feel the feeling that he’s trying to communicate. Here’s a typical example of his style:
“Yesterday the heat was oppressive. Dust clogged the leaves’ green and bees from the near hive, parched, drank, overeager, at the birdbath and were drowned there. Others replaced them from which the birds were frightened. The fleece-light air!”
For me, Williams is one of the earliest poets whose work really resonates me, because he writes in a way that makes it easy to read his words and to assimilate his sensual assault on the brain, which is effectively what his work is. In some ways, he reminds me of Charles Bukowski, in that he uses simple language to paint an evocative picture in the mind of the reader, and it’s something that I try to emulate in my own work – it’s difficult to get it right, especially while establishing your own creative style, but it’s awesome once you get it right, and Williams was one of the early masters of it.
Let’s take a look at another quote, because I have another 250 words to fill out before we’re done here: “Armed with a brass-violin horn / clarinet and fiddle go four / poor musicians trudging the snow / between villages in the cold.” It’s poems like that which really show how Williams’ simplistic style can tell a whole story in just a few simple words, and this book is full of examples of that.
Unfortunately, there are also points at which it develops into lengthy prose, and whilst it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to read it, it’s nowhere near as fun as the rest of the book is. Why? Again, it comes back to brevity – Williams is always at his best when he’s using as few words as possible, and long chunks of prose can take a long time to read through, with less of a pay off. Still, I wouldn’t recommend skipping it – just be warned, and tread carefully.
Overall, then, I’d recommend both of William Carlos Williams’ Collected Poems books, but I do feel as though this book, which contains the work from his later life, is the better of the two collections. But the thing is that these collections are so comprehensive that if you read them both, you’ve effectively read every book that Williams put out in his lifetime – it’d be crazy to read one and not the other. You might as well read them both for the sake of completion – plus, they’re reasonably cheap for what you get from them. My copy of Collected Poems II cost £18.95, which I guess is around $30 – not much at all,