Marjorie Perloff: On "This is Just to Say"

Stanzas to see - it is interesting that Williams himself never quite understood the workings of his own prosody. Thus when, in an interview of 1950, John W. Gerber asked the poet what it is that makes "This Is Just To Say" a poem, Williams replied, "In the first place, it metrically absolutely regular. . . .So, dogmatically speaking, it has to be a poem because it goes that way, don't you see!" But the. . .stanzas exhibit no regularity of stress or of syllable count; indeed, except for lines 2 and 5 (each an iamb) and lines 8 and 9 (each an amphibrach), no two lines have the same metrical form. What then can Williams mean when he says, "It's metrically absolutely regular"? Again, he mistakes sight for sound: on the page, the three little quatrains look alike; they have roughly the same physical shape. It is typography rather than any kind of phonemic recurrence that provides directions for the speaking voice (or for the eye that reads the lines silently) and that teases out the poem's meanings.

From The Dance of the intellect: Studies in the Poetry of the Pound Tradition. Copyright © 1985 by Cambridge University Press.

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Criticism Overview
Title Marjorie Perloff: On "This is Just to Say" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Marjorie Perloff Criticism Target William Carlos Williams
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 19 Oct 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication The Dance of the Intellect: Studies in the Poetry of the Pound Tradition
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