Sunday, May 25, 2014

Old Favorite

The Descent

William Carlos Williams1883 - 1963
The descent beckons
              as the ascent beckoned.                 
                               Memory is a kind      
of accomplishment,                          
              a sort of renewal
an initiation, since the spaces it opens are new places
              inhabited by hordes
                               heretofore unrealized,
of new kinds—
              since their movements
                               are toward new objectives
(even though formerly they were abandoned).

No defeat is made up entirely of defeat—since
the world it opens is always a place
                               unsuspected. A
world lost,
              a world unsuspected,
                               beckons to new places
and no whiteness (lost) is so white as the memory
of whiteness.

With evening, love wakens
              though its shadows
                               which are alive by reason
of the sun shining—
              grow sleepy now and drop away
                               from desire.

Love without shadows stirs now
              beginning to awaken
                               as night

The descent 
              made up of despairs
                               and without accomplishment
realizes a new awakening:
                               which is a reversal
of despair.
              For what we cannot accomplish, what
is denied to love,
              what we have lost in the anticipation—
                               a descent follows,
endless and indestructible.
*          *          *
William Carlos Williams seems to have shared the fate of other Modernist poetry gods like Wallace Stevens and Charles Olson. When I was in college in the 1970s I would have been dumbstruck by the idea that these three poets (who then seemed supernaturally significant) would steadily fade in reputation over the next half century until they approached invisibility. Not that they are attacked or reviled now. Ignored, simply ignored. Forgotten, largely forgotten. Perhaps in future they will return to fashion. Williams was always my favorite, and his work seems to me as beautiful as ever, or more beautiful.