Date: Sat, 13 Apr 1996 14:48:27 -0400 (EDT)

On Williams's "To Elsie"

Marc wrote:

Just so. It's WCWs willingness to identify with that tribe "the truth about us" and generalize that needs explanation. Guilt and Shame fog reason say I. Prof. Al might say WCW is getting his Subject (the poem's I) mixed up with its Object--Elsie. (Let's hope he did control himself) But I like your reference to Walls--this is exactly the logical result of building walls and taking them in dead earnest--inbreeding and stupidity--Take That Pat Buchanan. I've always wondered how that particular Irishman took it into his head that he was "Pure American." A personal note: We're strictly Mongrel here in the Machiz household: I'm from Eastern European Jewish stock (Latvia and Russia)--my wife's folks are from China (Canton). The kids are cuter than either of us.

A believer in the hybrid vigor,

Al replies:

I believe that Williams was a believer in the same vigor. The poem is not as direct a Take That Pat Buchanan as it might be. But it really agonizes over whether an impure "tradition" is itself a tradition. If so, it has to reckon with a


--or, a form of poetry--that must itself CONVEY the no-one-to-drive-the-car-ness of American culture.

So what kind of poetry can convey this? Well...the poetry Williams was himself trying to write. And this is where I see Williams on the edge of a postmodern poetry that takes cross-currents and melange as key qualities of culture and FORM both.