Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Danse Russe" by William Carlos Williams, Poet of the Month

The Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for August 12, 2014 is "Danse Russe" by William Carlos Williams, Poet of the Month.  The poem was taken from The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Volume 1: 1909 - 1939.  The text of the poem may be found here:  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175782.  An audio recording of the poem by the poet may be found here:  https://media.sas.upenn.edu/pennsound/authors/Williams-WC/25_UC-Berkeley_05-19-55/Williams-WC_14_Danse-Russe_UC-Berkeley_05-19-55.mp3.  A brief biography of Williams and references may be found here:  http://eretzsongs.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-songs-of-eretz-poet-of-month-for.html.

Williams wanted to be a renowned poet.  He wanted that badly.  However, he was a physician and had to live with the fact that in order to support himself and his family he must earn a living by practicing medicine full time.  I sympathize.  After an early but largely unnoticed success in the shadow of Ezra Pound during the Imagist movement, Williams' unique, desperate-to-be-heard voice was eclipsed by the fame and fortune of T. S. Elliot.  Williams would remain in relative obscurity until so late in life that, due to the affects of several strokes, he could not fully appreciate what little fame the Beats would give him as their adopted "Founding Father."

In "Danse Russe," Williams expresses his frustration with his lot.  While dancing grotesquely, naked in front of a mirror, he admits that he is alone, and that perhaps (sour grapes) that is for the best.  In this state of isolation, at least while the rest of his family sleeps, he can envision himself as lord of his own manor if not the captain of his own destiny.

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