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Danse Russe

William Carlos Williams

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Added by: Jen
I love this poem.
Added by: rmartin
I like this poem too.

I have always felt that there was a political subtext to this poem--not the main point, but hovering there. Williams of course did not approve of fellow American poets expatriating themselves to find inspiration in Europe. He thought American poets should stick to American language and on their own turf.
The Ballet Russe was the big thing in sophisticated Paris at the time. The poet's awkward but moving, lonely danse in this poem
in his darkened north room in New Jersey seems to validate his desire to be a purely American word-pioneer.
william carlos williams' "danse russe"
Added by: Norma
I have a student who has interpreted this poem as being the story of a mass murderer who has just killed his "sleeping" family and now is exulting in his "loneliness." Can someone please tell me who assures these students that "any interpretation is as good as any other?" I've talked endlessly about evidence and probability and connotation. Is this student's attitude being promulgated by poor instruction in high school concerning poetry and the poet's intent?
Who's to say...
Added by: Tomm
...that this poem is NOT about a madman ("genius") who has just murdered his family? They're "asleep" as the sun burns bright? Part of the dancer's grotesquerie could very well be his bloody hands, limbs, and blood-soaked shirt. "Russe" - after all - is cognate with "red." This could have been called a "Danse Macabre," but that may have been too direct a reference for WCW's art/taste.

A good deal of what a poem means to us is what we bring to it. A good poem is like a Rorschach blot. I believe that good poets strive for concision to the point of a delicious abiguity that will allow a poem to say different things to different people.

Please explain how "poor instruction in high school concerning poetry and the poet's intent" invalidates your student's interpretation?
Added by: Justin
As a student myself I think I might be able to answer your question. I find that william carlos williams is especially ambiguous sometimes: the red wheelbarrow etc. However, I think the thing that has helped me most with reading poetry is the intent of the writer, the environment they worked in. Things seem to make sense a lot more when you have a background. For instance, reading almost anything from Eliot requires a knowledge of the times he wrote in that I just simply did not have. I think most really good poets have their finger on the pulse of the "time spirit" (a pulse rate analogy seems fitting for a doctor don't you think?). I think maybe some poets aim for ambiguity, but the brilliant ones? I think not so much. It's easy to write an indecipherable poem with multivariate meaning(I can do it). and that's more to wallace's suit, I think.

I think the former explanation for the poem is more accurate. It's just too easy to make a poem that can mean everything all at once.

I think that marianne moore stayed behind too. Maybe she's written something to that effect?
William Carlos Williams is to say...
Added by: Chara
I guess this is primarily directed at Tomm's comments- but really to anyone who believes that poetry, or any other art is purely given meaning because of the impression of the reader/viewer.
I am saddened at the thought that postmodernism has influenced people so that they think that all things are completely subjective- especially the things that come from the modern era. Postmodernism is a new (relatively) stream of thought and many people before the postmodern time (especially modern times) had very specific meanings to the things that they created. Take Elliot- Williams didn't agree with Elliot on many isssues but they both had specific things that they were saying through their poetry. To ignore the context, for the reaction you bring to a piece is insulting to the author and the effort and skill that they brought to create that piece. Don't be so self involved or short sighted that it keeps you from really looking at a poet's life and beliefs and MESSAGE- not just at your own reaction to their product.
Added by: kristin
I memorized this poem when i was in grade 8, oh, some 25 years ago and it stuck with me. Back then it reminded me of my father who would sit on the back porch alone with his gin drink writing pad of paper with nothing to distract him but the sound of flies snapping to their deaths on those primitive yellow bug strips. I thought (and still do) that it is a celebration of loneliness and how precious time is. If it is about the cold war in Russia, bite my arse.
this debate thing about murder
Added by: nicholas
Williams departed a great deal from his modernist contemporaries but thats not the point, given another of williams poems "The Young Housewife," in which he seems to ponder the sound a woman would make if he ran her over with his car, and all the textual evidence provided by Tomm I think its entirely shortsided of Norma to discount a very interesting interpretation of this poem that her student came up with.
Added by: aldo
Why did he use the title Danse Russe did he took Russian Dance or what?
Poetry Inference
Added by: Sean
Everyone has a different feeling on criticism of poetry... The idea that one school of criticism is the only school is completely foolish. The student interpreted the poem as a murderer due to his/her excercise in Reader Response theory, a more subjective theory. There are other schools, and so to each his/her own!

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