William Carlos Williams, Imaginations
Imaginations is a collection of five of WCW’s early works, most of them a strange amalgam of poetry and prose. Kora in Hell is here, one of the cornerstones of American prose poetry. It is one of those books that feels like being handed an invitation or permission slip.
For me, however, Spring and All is the book’s great pleasure. Spring and All contains some of WCW’s best poems surrounded by wild prose that offers theories of poetry and rants and zany plans to destroy civilization “west of the Carpathian mountains (also east)”. So much of this material has been extracted and made to look respectable and buttoned-up, like a child at church. It’s so much more exhilarating to read all together.
I should admit that there are several books here I cannot yet decipher. I open pages at random and roll about in this great strange mind and hope to live a long time and become smarter and more patient.
I like to carry this book when I have almost no time to read or think. Somehow WCW was able to make these strange fragmentary books in the midst of doctoring and exhaustion. These are messy books, messy in a way that gives me courage, full of plans and frustration and paths leading nowhere.
Williams’ poetic theories are quoted so often—and yet I found that the most fun, most liberating, part of Spring and All I’d never seen before. I immediately had a fantasy of aspiring writers being made to recite the following, like the Gettysburg Address.
“The writer of the imagination would find himself released from observing things for the purpose of writing them down later. He would be there to enjoy, to taste to enjoy the free world, not a world he carries like a bag of food, always fearful lest he drop something or someone get more than he,
A world detached from the necessity of recording it, sufficient to itself, removed from him (as it most certainly is) with which he has bitter and delicious relations and from which he is independent – moving at will from one thing to another – as he pleases, unbound – complete
and the unique proof of this is the work of the imagination not “like” anything but transfused with the same forces which transfuse the earth – at least one small part of them”