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This article is taken from PN Review 152, Volume 29 Number 6, July - August 2003.

William Carlos Williams and Women (III) Herbert Leibowitz

Women in Al Que Quiere!

In Kora in Hell, Williams' experiments with dada weaned him from mouldy romantic habits and liberated him to search for a modernist style in `the dark void coaxing him whither he has no knowledge'. He also appraised his conjugal disappointments in glancing or cryptic ways - as a dance in which the partners are out of synch with each other, coming down `flatfooted' three times with an unattractive thump, and `boredom takes a hand'. With such discord he can only withdraw into an erotic dream of deliverance from `misery and brokenness': dancing a `tarantelle that wears flesh from bones'.

Kora took three years to germinate. Williams could not rush it. He was enormously busy: a new practice to tend, a growing family to provide for, America on the brink of war, deaths in his and Floss's families, an influenza epidemic that left him alternately exhausted and furious at having to fight death on an epic scale without any remotely effective weapons. No wonder he shrugged his shoulders and declared: `It's hard to tell loss from gain anyway.' Yet, amazingly, while disease and war devoured people indiscriminately, Williams thrived. He carved out time to play with his children; he looked after his ailing father, kept regular office hours, drove from house call to hospital; he even managed to spend a few hours selecting poems for the literary magazine Others and scouting the art galleries for the latest modernist works. These fascinated ...


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