Practice: Pond Skating

I’m one of those people who wants to know everything about everything. I actively like going to meetings most people consider boring because of this. I enjoy the rhythms of blather (long winded, substance-light talk of a faintly self important nature), and the odd diamond that emerges from these Woolfean dust-heaps. But I can’t spend my life attending other people’s meetings, and the after-sifting can get wearing, so I’m delighted to have taken a place on an online course on Modern and Contemporary American Poetry with the University of Philadelphia. Week 4 has just begun, and my head has only now stopped spinning from the sheer newness of it. The excitement of being back in a university environment (albeit virtual) talking about such things as parataxis; the collaborative making sense of… the essay writing.

I’m not entirely new to American poetry of a modern nature: I’ve long been a fan of T.S. Elliot; Sylvia Plath; Williams; Ginsberg, and a few others. But I had never given Emily Dickinson much time – I’m not good with traditional meter – have only skimmed Whitman, and didn’t even know Gertrude Stein wrote poetry. So I’m learning about the history of the form as well as finding new favourite poets on an almost daily basis. Oh my god Wallace Stevens, if he were alive I’d probably stalk him, and as for Stein…

Here is her portrait of Picasso set to dance, don’t try and make sense of it, just bask in its blather:

I’d be interested to know what you think of this, and Modernism/Postmodernism in poetry, and all the arts, in general. I’m likely to be writing a lot about this in the coming weeks, showing my working out and all…

The featured image is a Picasso self portrait which should help us climb into Stein’s poem.

9 thoughts on “Practice: Pond Skating

  1. A course!! My favourite poem is This Is Just To Say, by William Carlos Williams….I like it because it is clean and simple, yet punched with meaning.I suppose I like Modernism. I like it because it is clean and simple, yet loaded with meaning.


      1. Found it:

        Flossie Williams’s reply to “This Is Just to Say”

        (crumpled on her desk)

        Dear Bill: I’ve made a

        couple of sandwiches for you.

        In the ice-box you’ll find

        blue-berries — a cup of grapefruit

        a glass of cold coffee.

        On the stove is the tea-pot

        with enough tea leaves

        for you to make tea if you

        prefer — Just light the gas —

        boil the water and put it in the tea

        Plenty of bread in the bread-box

        and butter and eggs —

        I didn’t know just what to

        make for you. Several people

        called up about office hours —

        See you later. Love. Floss.

        Please switch off the telephone.


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