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Thursday, September 7, 2017


I read Paterson while proctoring PhD exam, after many years of not reading it. I found the first two sections a bit dull. The documentary parts & letters overpower the poetry, which is fumbling metapoetics that never quite gets out of the gate. The Marcia Nardi letters increasingly overwhelm everything else at the end of Paterson 2, and are very disturbing, both in themselves and for the fact that WCW had the bad judgment to use them. But more compelling than Williams's own writing.  

Then Paterson 3 is brilliant, with the library section and description of the fire.

Then Paterson 4 and 5 fall off a bit again, with some brilliant passages intermixed, but with some dumbish Poundian economic pastiche.  

I was reading without preconceptions, not expecting to find anything particularly bad or good. The whole thing seems a mishmash to me, on the whole, despite the flashes of brilliance.


Thomas said...

I read it out loud, the whole thing, by myself in the summerhouse about 10 years ago. I also like Book III the best. But throughout all of it I was struck by how easy it was to read out loud, how the words followed each other naturally in speech.

Anonymous said...

Bad judgment because confidentiality or other reasons?

When I first read P., I didn't know they were real letters, thought WCW had been smart enough to create this other voice, and loved them. I don't know that I'd ever have gotten to read them otherwise so I am glad they are in there, because it meant I read them when I did. But, do you think they're bad for the text / poor aesthetic choice?

Jonathan said...

Well, it creates a problem because they are so powerful and overwhelm WCW's own voice, and aren't integrated aesthetically into the whole. She gave permission, I guess, but they are devastating to both parties. I would have preferred to read them in a text generated by her, on her terms, rather than as an ill-digested part of HIS poem.

At the same time it is a kind of reckless courage to include them, so I understand any ambivalent response one might have.

Her entire identity as a writer depends on his responses to her;; an impossible situation for everyone and anyone, because even if the response is everything she hopes for, it still gives him all the power. Very unhealthy.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but so fascinating, and there were so many reasons why this would have been the situation. I'm for the inclusion, the poem is so patchwork-y, collage-like anyway, I don't mind the unbalance they create.