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This article is taken from PN Review 11, Volume 6 Number 3, January - February 1980.

A Time to Every Purpose (William Carlos Williams) David Holloway

William Carlos Williams, Selected Poems, edited and introduced by Charles Tomlinson (Penguin) £1.75


Listen, I said, I met a man
last night told me what he'd brought
home from the market:

  2 partridges
  2 Mallard ducks
  a Dungeness crab
  24 hours out
  of the Pacific
  and 2 live-frozen
  trout
  from Denmark,

What about that?


"No good!" the English cry, "we prefer 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' ". Then, more quietly, sniffing judiciously: "As for what the fishy rigmarole is all about-why, about nothing much, so far as we can see. What's more, it's not the first time that man has had the nerve to publish such stuff; he included an ice-cream price-list (of all things) in Della Primavera Trasportata Al Morale, not to mention his emblematic skull and crossbones and


* * *
* S ' *
* O *
* D *
* A *
* * *


What does he think he's up to? It's not funny, neither has it any moral urgency. The man's a bore! And about those ducks-they're there again in Paterson, Book Five:


Q. . . . "2 partridges/2 mallard ducks/a Dungeness crab/24 hours out/of the Pacific/and 2 live-frozen trout/from Denmark . . ." Now, that sounds just like a fashionable grocery list.

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