They don’t know no William Carlos Williams
At 3:41 in the afternoon of August 15, 2011, T.S. Eliot, 23, is falling asleep over his Sanskrit lesson at Harvard. “Prufrock” won’t be published for another 4 years, and will be panned by the London Times. The Waste Land is over 10 years and a nervous breakdown away. He sighs. Some day he will meet a girl who will realize “like a patient etherized upon a table” is genius… He lays his glasses on the desk and rubs his eyes…
At the same moment, Ezra Pound, 26, unknown, but getting to know the famous, in London, is writing a letter to his dad, telling him he won’t need to send any money right now; an American, Margaret Lanier Cravens, has promised him an income, but please don’t tell mother about this. Pound is thankful Hilda—a prof’s daughter who he met in school, and who refused his marriage proposal a few years ago—and her new English boyfriend Dick, soon to be his roommates, are buying into his Imagism scheme, in which Japanese haiku is the basis for a “new” Western approach to poetry—brilliant! He rises from his desk and shadow boxes for a moment…
William Carlos Williams, 28, is checking his inventory of tongue depressors in his new home doctor’s office in Rutherford, New Jersey. He’s thinking seriously of courting the younger sister of the woman who refuses to marry him. He will marry her next year. His first book of poems is 10 years away. He looks at the clock on the wall…
Modern life was stirring.
Poems on electricity were being written.
“Ode To A Light Bulb” was circulating among friends, brightening their lives.
William Carlos Williams walked into a jazz club and pointed to his poems: “Look, fellas! Jazz!” They threw him out.
William Carlos Williams ran into the street, stopped the first person he met, and pointed to his poems: “Hey, pal, look at my poems! Aint this just the way people talk?” The guy looked at the scribblings on the page, with lots of white spaces. Then he looked at Williams. Then back at the page. Then he looked at Williams, again. Then he said in his best American idiom: “You is crazy.”
Despondent, Williams phoned up his friend, Ezra Pound. “Don’t worry, Bill,” Pound said. “We are going to make enough noise and eventually we’ll be taught in college. I know people. Lewis, Yeats, Ford will help. I’m meeting people every day. Great poetry is hard to write. Mad poetry will be fashionable, soon. Don’t you worry.”
And the clocks began to chime and it was the modern time and all the rain in the street began to rain.
And the women came and went.