Saturday, September 27, 2014

MOOC ModPo Poem of the Day: "The rose is obsolete" by William Carlos Williams

The Songs of Eretz MOOC ModPo Poem of the Day for September 27, 2014 is "The rose is obsolete" (from Spring and All, 1923) by William Carlos Williams.  The text of the poem may be found here:  http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88v/wcw-rose-obsolete.html.  Williams was the Songs of Eretz Poet of the Month for August 2014.  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.

Modernist poets were trying to divorce themselves from the cliches of the Victorian Era that preceded them.  And so dies the rose--that timeless metaphor for love.  With the demise of the rose metaphor also came the demise of flowery language (pun intended).

However, in "The rose is obsolete," Williams does not mean that the rose can no longer serve anything but a cliche, laughable role in poetry.  On the contrary, Williams sought to remake the rose and reshape the metaphor into something "sharper, neater, more cutting," perhaps made of different non-silky soft materials such as "copper roses  / steel roses."  

It is at the crisply defined edge of the petal of the rose where the new metaphor began for Williams.  He saw that rarified edge as a jumping point, as a point in contact with the entire universe and all of its possibilities.  "It is at the edge of the / petal that love waits."

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