Thing and All: Reading W. C. Williams Spring and All Through a Thing Theory Lens

Ok, herewith a little concatenation between the imagist “thingness of things” and phenomenology can be read into this critical blog post by Tom Holmes. Not all readers will want to bear with the academic, linguistic, and scholarly analysis here; but for those who do, it’s worth a read. I like the rather ridiculous but genuinely honest idea of “Thing Theory” in poetry.
Here’s an example: “Williams is rendering things, and the rendering is accomplished through the imagination rendering things physical as they are, or rendering their opacity and not their transparency.” So it’s crucial to examine relationships (subject-object relationship, etc.). I concur with Holmes’ assertion that the reader is asked–or required–to “re-see” the thing in question; note how point of view, perception, necessarily gets involved in that process. The re-seeing is a kind of re-creation within the poem’s recreational aspects (pun intended). And the poem becomes a Thing made of words, which of course is what a poem is…among other “Things.”
Holmes’ essay may suggest some controversial ways of reading and interpreting Williams and other poets. Have at that. 🙂

The Line Break

Below I read William Carlos Williams Spring and All through a Thing Theory lens in an attempt to understand “Thing Theory.” My understanding of Thing Theory may not be complete, so if you have suggestions and/or want to clear up any of my misunderstandings, please leave a comment below.

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Thing and All 

A Sense of Things: The Object Matter of American LiteratureIn Bill Brown’s “Introduction” to A Sense of Things: The Object Matter of American Literature, he makes a comment about Williams Carlos Williams and Williams’s Spring and All when he writes, Williams “seems to understand the process of wresting things away from life and experience to be the essential dynamic of the artist’s endeavor” (2). Later on, however, Brown misunderstands the meaning of Williams “no ideas but in things,” a quote from Williams that appears a few years later than Spring and All in the poem “Paterson.” In that misunderstanding, Brown also misses out on…

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