Bonus WCW: “Danse Russe”


Bonus WCW: “Danse Russe,” posted and annotated at Rap Genius.

In this poem, Dr. Williams, respectable obstetrician, husband, father, middle-aged citizen, dances butt-naked in front of a mirror. In doing so, he summons his Whitmanian side, his barbaric inner poet. Recall that Walt Whitman used to write things like:

Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while
they discuss I am silent, and go bathe and admire myself.

Williams is no less self-admiring: “Who shall say I am not / the happy genius of my household?” Later in American literature, Tim Allen would write a book called Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man. Presumably Allen would argue that this goes double for dancing naked men with delusions of grandeur—and yet Williams compels us to stand by, observe, even as he shuts the door to the rest of his household. Call it “private exhibitionism.” Call it shameless, call it strange. Whatever it is, it makes him happy.

This Is Just to Say


We’ve explained

this poem

which was written

by Williams


and which

you were probably


to work on


Forgive us

it was delicious

so sweet

and so Modern

William Carlos Williams’s Modernist classic, “This Is Just to Say,” is up and annotated on RG. So sweet. If that’s not enough of a WCW fix for you, we’ll be featuring another of his best-known poems later today. In the meantime, read this hilarious parody by Kenneth Koch.

NEW: William Carlos Williams, “To Elsie”

“The pure products of America / go crazy…”

And we’re doing the same. For WCW. The poet, the obstetrician. “The lovely man,” as John Berryman called him. William Carlos Williams’s “To Elsie” is up and (mostly) annotated over at Rap Genius. Some questions posed in the annotations: Did the first line of the poem influence the first line of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”? Did the deer at the end suggest the reindeer at the end of Auden’s “The Fall of Rome“? Could Jersey Shore have changed Williams’s mind about our culture?

If you have any insight into these or other mysteries, add your explanations. Go crazy with us. With America.

More about Williams at Poetry Foundation.

More about Williams at


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 75 other followers