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. . . Despite the many representations of women and proclamations of a feminine essence present within Williams's oeuvre, he intuits a quality his verbal constructs cannot circumscribe. "Queen-Anne's-Lace" suggestively evokes a feminine desire ultimately unrepresentable through language and, hence, ultimately resistant to poetic control: . . . The poem begins with the female body and moves to the final one-word utterance of "nothing." In between the lines proceed by negation ("not, " "nor, " "no") to a final series of imagistic reversals and inversions: the "tiny purple blemish" becomes a "blossom," the field is full of white flowers yet "empty," the "single stem" is a "cluster." Singleness is plurality, fullness is emptiness, depletion is replenishment: These dualities merge within a field of "white desire," the desire of "her body," which is both "the wild carrot taking / the field by force" and "empty," "nothing." It is a desire marked and blemished by "his hand," but it "blossoms under his touch"; here, the difference in nuance between his hand (an image connoting force) and his touch (an image of contact) suggests alternative ways to approach this desire. Touch leads to blossom and to the paradoxical empty-fullness of the field. This is the paradox of the imaginative process for Williams and the "nothing" of a feminine creative capacity; this is feminine desire as a force overtaking the field while remaining empty to discourse—a void in language but what language continually yearns for.


From Poetics of the Feminine: Authority and Literary Tradition in William Carlos Williams, Mina Loy, Denise Levertov, and Kathleen Fraser. Copyright © 1994 by Cambridge UP.