The Girl Can’t Help It

Though not particularly one of my favorite poems, “The Girl,” and the title says it all, is one of those poems that seems to stay with you over the years. Though I hadn’t read it in probably 20 to 25 years, I remembered it almost instantaneously once I started reading it.

Wonder why that is?

This poem, unlike “The Poor” contain no commentary from the poet, thus beautifully fitting Williams’ idea that there is “No ideas but in things.”

The Girl

with big breasts
under a blue sweater

bareheaded-
crossing the street

reading a newspaper
stops, turns

and looks down
as though

she had seen a dime
on the pavement

So, why is it that this poem works perfectly well without any commentary from the poet? Has Williams found the ultimate “objective correlative?”

Is its appeal to human nature, at least male human nature, so basic, so universal, that it needs nothing more? Or, have past societal trends, like Holllywood “sweater girl” promotions been so widespread and pervasive that we have been “conditioned” to react exactly the way the author wanted us to?

Would a primitive native who lived in a society where women didn’t cover their breasts react the same way to this poem that someone from the West would react?

:: The Object and Nothing but the Object ::

“The Poor” is one of my favorite William Carlos Williams poems. In many ways it fits Williams’ idea of “No ideas but in things.” It contains a number of vivid, concrete images that certainly convey emotions to the responsive reader.

In order to make a point, though, I’ve taken the liberty of removing the first line and a half from the poem. Read the poem without this line, then insert the line that has been removed and reread the poem to see whether you believe it changes the poem or not:

THE POOR
___ ___ ______ __ _______
_______ __ , the old
yellow wooden house indented
among the new brick tenements

Or a cast iron balcony
with panels showing oak branches
in full leaf. It fits
the dress of the children

reflecting every stage and
custom of necessity-
Chimneys, roofs, fences of
Wood and metal in an unfenced

age and enclosing next to
nothing at all: the old man

in a sweater and soft black
hat who sweeps the sidewalk-

his own ten feet of it-
in a wind that fitfully

turning his corner has
overwhelmed the entire city

Personally, the image of the old man sweeping his sidewalk in a city overwhelmed by dirt is a favorite image that has stayed with me for many years, one I remembered without even trying to memorize it.

"Why would that be?" you might ask. Perhaps because I was a caseworker for awhile and observed many futile attempts by clients to overcome the problems they faced, while society ignored more serious problems that were sure to overwhelm them relatively quickly. Obviously I bring experiences to this poem that most people would not bring.

What would you say is the “tone” of this poem? Is it melancholy? Is it full of despair? Is there a sense of delight? How are all of these images tied together?

What happens to the poem when you put the opening lines “It's the anarchy of poverty/delights me” into the poem? Do these lines change your perception of the poem itself?

For me, at least, this sentence serves as the “thesis” statement of the poem, changing the tone of the poem considerably. The word “anarchy” provides a different structure to the poem than I would have imposed on it. “Delights” is, for me, though, quite unexpected, changing the whole meaning of the poem. I doubt that “delights” is a way I would have ever described this kind of poverty.

And though I’m still not entirely convinced that poverty can ever really be a “delight,” it makes me look back at the images in a new way.

It seems to me, though, that Williams does not merely present the object “without further comment;” in fact, his comment alters not only the way we see this poem but, quite possibly, the way we see poverty.

:: MT and ME ::

Okay, I have to admit it, I've been thinking about switching from Adobe GoLive to MT. Unfortunately, I know a lot less about coding than Jonathon gives me credit for. I hand code very little. I'm a layout, print, person, not a computer person. Because I was into Photoshop I naturally gravitated toward GoLive, and that's about as far as I have gotten.

The real hold up is that I don't think ATT broadband will work with MT since it doesn't work with Blogger. When they lost Excite, ATT would no longer allow outside access to their websites. You have to use ATT Broadband to connect. I've sent an inquiry to tech support to see if there is any chance MT will will work with their servers and am anxiously (STILL) awaiting their response.

Nor can I host my own site using an old computer because that is against the contract I've signed with ATT Broadband.

I've noticed that Alwin Hawkins, who also has ATT broadband, hosts his site on another host. I'm supposing that there is a good reason.

I'm not sure I want to pay more than the $40+ a month I'm already paying to play this game, though I am watching comments on Jonathon's site to see what it might cost for a new host.

(Oh, by the way, how do you set the width of your page so that it is variable? I thought I had solved that problem earlier.)

What do you think?