Tuesday, September 25, 2007

big postmodern but

Robert Grenier (in Phantom Anthems, 1986) wrote what I think is an absolutely brilliant response to and satire of William Carlos Williams. Here it is:

for William Carlos Williams

the young plum tree
like a martini
with new green
leaves how metrical

likely & con-
versant it would
have been today to
write a true imagist poem

I just love the loaded skeptical sense of "conversant." How conversant it would be of us today, of a poet today, to write one of those spare, seemingly descriptive or "objective" poems in Williams's manner. How metrical, how likely, how conversant. Its title "But" hangs up there like a large and general turner-around of the rhetoric and logic. I find all this hilarious. But - there I go myself - I don't have the sense of this as a rejection of Williams especially. There's a hint of lament that...you can't say it that way any more (to borrow a line from John Ashbery). The use of the word "today" points toward this tone.