Friday, April 3, 2009

free verse: the thing

The Thing
by William Carlos Williams

Each time it rings
I think it is for
me but it is
not for me nor for

anyone it merely
rings and we
serve it bitterly
together, they and I

Free verse describes various styles of poetry that are written without using strict meter or rhyme. Lines and stanzas may seem unrelated however the work retains as a coherent whole.

In Williams’ poem, “the thing” that he refers to can be simply an alarm clock or phone. He seems to be very straight forward with his lines, using simple language and getting his point across. A phone has a rung and whoever they are looking for is unknown. However, I was thinking that “the thing” Williams’ alludes to may actually be death. And in that case, the whole poem is a euphemism (an indirect expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt) for death. Williams realizes that death is unpredictable and anyone can be “called” at any time. Since there is no escape, eventually we must all “serve it bitterly”. He uses the word “anyone” to refer to the fact that everyone will die.

There appears to be a caesura (a momentary interruption or break) in the middle of the poem giving it a sense of detachment. Williams’ could have written a continuous poem, reflecting ongoing life. But instead he chooses to detach his stanzas to emphasize the word “anyone”. In the first stanza, he only refers to himself, however after the pause, he draws in the audience as well. Finally, since there is a lack of an end punctuation, I think Williams is trying to say that the instance of death is a mystery and ongoing struggle.

What do you think “the thing” is? (leave comments)

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