William Corbett’s “Wickson Plums”

Though I still have several things I’m working on fixing on my web site and I’m still working on the side on Photoshop and Illustrator, for the moment I’m intent on finishing Hoover’s Postmodern American Poetry.

Luckily, I’ve suddenly found several poets I like, so I think I can manage to finish the anthology soon and then move on to actually exploring several of the poets I want to explore more in more detail.

I’m not sure if I like William Corbett’s poetry because of how he describes it or because of the way it is written, but I like what he says about the function of poetry:

I seek to make poems that are clear as a cloudless fall morning – the reader ought to be able to see freshly what’s right in front of him and into the distance for miles. My endeavor is to make the everyday memorable, to discover and declare the value in what’s considered ordinary. The language I like best is plain and ringing, clean and accurate as a well-driven nail.

While I’m not sure that all of his poems, or anyone’s poems, for that matter, can meet these standards, I do like many of his poems. At least on one level they remind me of William Carlos Williams poems, both through their concreteness and their sense of humor.

My favorite poem in this section of the collection is called


Six green plum bottoms
perfect from nipples flow
sit in the antique white
bowl where bread rose.
Out the kitchen window
my daughters ten and thirteen
run across the field
just their heads show
as they dip into a swale
like the ocean first Marni’s
blond head than Arden’s brown
hair flowing rises into sight.
Late August’s weak sun
lays whitely upon us all
upon the ragged spent grass
and nearly done blackberry canes.
The evening cold comes up
around our toes. You no longer
hear the cricket then suddenly
they catch your attention again
like the flies bred through
all these wet days brushed away
from the plums. Green ones.
Fill my mouth with sweetness.

Although the poem reminds me of William Carlos Williams’ famous

This Is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

in some ways, by juxtaposing the plums against the scene outside, and later the evening crickets, Corbett introduces the entirely new idea of how difficult it is “to see freshly what’s right in front of him,” because of the many distractions that we face in the real world.

We are so caught up in a world of shifting demands and objects vying for our attention that it is difficult to pay the proper attention to anything.

I found a number of interesting poems by Corbett online.

7 thoughts on “William Corbett’s “Wickson Plums””

  1. I’m confused, because you’ve discussed a post-modern poem that I actually like. These lines:

    “Late August’s weak sun
    lays whitely upon us all
    upon the ragged spent grass
    and nearly done blackberry canes”

    spoke to me, because so many times in late August or early September, I’ve looked at the landscape and thought that it looks so tired, a late summer fatigue that’s awaiting autumn to deliver a coup de grass.

  2. Apparently “post-modern” covers a lot of areas. This one, as suggested above, reminds me a lot of William Carlos Williams, who I would assume is a modern, not Postmodern poet.

    You’ll notice I tend to like the Postmodern poets who favor simplicity of language, an almost Zen-like style.

    I suspect that the modern media, particularly advertising, has made me distrust language in a way I would have never thought possible as a young man.

  3. I haven’t read the anthology, and I’m not a poetry theorist, but perhaps it would be useful to draw a distinction between post-modern poetry and Language poetry? Just wondering. I like this poem a great deal, too. The activity described outdoors is almost a Hopper painting.

  4. I’m not a poetry theorist either, Kurt, but personally that distinction would seem important. As noted previously, I’m not a big fan of “prose poems” and most of what is called LANGUAGE poetry falls under that category.

    Truthfully, I’m not too concerned with classifications, either. I began this long, drawn-out study because I heard the term Postmodern far too often to be willing to ignore it. Now that I have a better idea of what the term means, I’m ready to forget it and refocus on poets I like, no matter what they’re called.

    One more day and I’ll have finished all of the poems in this anthology, and I’ll be done because I’m not going to spend days in a row reading the essays that conclude the collection. I don’t do theoretical poetry essays.

  5. I am reminded of this variation:

    This Is Just To Say by Erica-Lynn Gambino
    (for William Carlos Williams)

    I have just
    asked you to
    get out of my

    even though
    you never
    I would

    Forgive me
    you were
    me insane

    which, in turn, prompted me to dash off the following:

    This Is Just To Say
    (for William Carlos Williams and Erica-Lynn Gambino)

    I told you
    from the start
    it wouldn’t

    or no plums
    it was a recipe
    for disaster

    Forgive me
    the obvious.

  6. Well, well, well. How ’bout this, specially for Erica-Lynn?

    This Is Just to Say

    I have moved
    out of my

    you were probably
    thinking you had
    taken over

    Forgive me
    you are a disaster
    so mean
    and so cold

    Tributes! That’s what it’s all about!

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