Sunday, April 13, 2014

Analysis of "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams

Original poem reprinted online here: "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams
Originally read: September 17, 2013
More information about the Poet: William Carlos Williams


Probably one of the most famous and the most analyzed poem from William Carlos Williams.  I'm sure, dear reader (or spambot) you can find better analysis than mine on the subject.  This is just a warning.

Every class in where we analyzed this poem, there were always snickers from the audience, "oh, you know what this means."  No, I don't.  "It's about sex."  Great.

Where in the poem should be the question:
 
     This is Just to Say

      I have eaten
      the plums
      that were in
      the icebox

Note the lack of punctuation here and also note how the title bleeds into the body.  The speaker admits on this sort of innocent theft to "the other."  Who, presumably his wife.  And stop right here.  Anytime someone says "presumably" this is more of an inference line than an implied line.  Note how the poem opens up to the reader's interpretation right away due to the apologetic tone and the innocent play here.  It's safe to infer something more when it's easy to read.

     and which
     you were probably
     saving
     for breakfast

Here's the important part here, the speaker then infers that the other was "saving [the plums] for breakfast" why is this important?  the speaker places himself as an observer her in this moment, and what he describes is straight forward but something further is implied.

     Forgive me
     they were delicious
     so sweet
     and so cold

It's in this description, which is so tactile and personal, where I think people think of sex.  I'm not so sure sex feels so cold though.  How about this.  Readers can infer a sexual connotation based on the descriptions which seem specific, but are general: "delicious" "sweet" and "cold" which could be for any situation.

War poem?  Sure -- plums represent landgrab.
Revenge poem? Why not?  He did eat the plumbs "rightfully" the other
90's after-school special poem?  I can make this argument too -- the lesson learned here kids is that always apologize for stealing something.

The description are that broad, but the trick is that the poem brings people back in to figure out more, or to see how the poem works.  Everything is about sex, as long as the reader can infer it.

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