Jul 6, 2011

Poet's Nook: "The Term" by William Carlos Williams

A rumpled sheet
Of brown paper
About the length

And apparent bulk
Of a man was
Rolling with the

Wind slowly over
And over in
The street as

A car drove down
Upon it and
Crushed it to

The ground. Unlike
A man it rose
Again rolling

With the wind over
And over to be as
It was before. 

One can detect several shades of meaning in this poem. In light of the very troubling times we're living in presently, with more and more people becoming destitute, homeless, hungry & bereft of hope, our lives, like wind-tossed, rumpled sheets of paper, can be viewed as forever shadowed by material & mortal annihilation; but unlike paper that can be crushed to the ground & still rise as before, we 're constituted differently. Our physical annihilation is final--there is no returning, hence the title of the poem--"The term"(our mortal existence is for an unspecified term). What is pretty remarkable to me is the fact that when William Carlos Williams wrote this piece in the 1930's, he coined the expression The Term to describe a literary movement in poetry where poems could be stretched out in any given way & anyone can take from them what they will. There are no boundaries. So, this poem can also be about the nature of poetry itself!  It's a beautiful thing!