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POW: Poetry on Wednesday

If you haven’t read this poem already, there’s a 80% chance you would have come across it in  your life without me posting it here today. It’s a classic:

photo by flickr user hisgett

This is Just to Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably

saving

for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

It’s by William Carlos Williams, who was both a doctor and a poet.

The reason I like this poem so much is that it is a perfect description of a moment, and it’s a description of a relationship.  All of that in 12 lines!  It’s got the joy of spontaneously eating something because it seems like the perfect thing to do, and the thrill of knowing it’s not very polite. You could read it a different way each time. Is the narrator really asking for forgiveness? Or is he confident that the plum-owner won’t care about the theft of his or her food?

Another fan (maybe?) of this poem was the poet Kenneth Koch:

The reason I say “maybe” is that Koch wrote 4 variations on the W.C.W. poem. They’re very funny – they could be criticizing the plum poem for being so lighthearted about stealing food, or they could just be taking the concept of an insincere apology to an absurd conclusion. You decide:

photo by flickr user squarejer

Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams

1

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.

I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do

and its wooden beams were so inviting.

2

We laughed at the hollyhocks together

and then I sprayed them with lye.

Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

3

I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the

next ten years.

The man who asked for it was shabby

and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

4

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.

Forgive me. I was clumsy and

I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

(To read more from either poet, click on their portraits above.)

-Tessa, CLP – East Liberty

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