Dimensions by C.K Williams
While the poem Dimensions by C.K. Williams certainly contains many of the elements readers of his poetry have come to seek out and admire, surrealism and a somehow disjointed view of reality that makes reality itself more real, for me it is more than that. Here we find the poets true feeling about poetry and poets. They seem to walk the razors edge between the real and the surreal, between the tragedy of life and its comedy, and once in a while spill over onto the other side, bringing us something in translation. Poets, story tellers, artists are all walkers that step within and between the dimensions of life's complexities to view "those that pass by/like people," (Williams xx) in all their dilemmas, and return to them a sense of purpose or at least of hope. Dimensions is a poem not only about the different aspects of reality, but the poet's place in it as well.
Upon first encountering the initial lines of the poem, we feel that the poet is talking about somewhere else than our world or our reality. "There is a world somewhere else that is unendurable." (Williams xx) the poet states, it is not until later when we absorb the notion that the viewpoint of the poem is that of the poet. To him there is a world outside of his that is "unendurable," we realize he is talking about our world, the world of the reader. A world "that uses its soldiers and widows / for flour, its orphans for building stone, its legs for pens." (Williams xx) Our world to seems unendurable to the sensibilities of the poet as he views it from the outside.
In an interview the C.K. Williams gave to the New England Review, he had the following to say about standing outside the source of your work. The interviewer was asking what seemed at first like a trivial question about how Williams' liked living in Paris. He replied, "There's no question there are advantages to having distance from your home place; you can see certain things more clearly if you're not involved in them every day." (Norris 127) This is the perspective of the poet when viewing everyday life. He is somewhere outside it, though he notes "And sometimes one of us, losing the way, / will drift over the border and see them there, dying,/laughing, being revived." (Williams xx)
Poetry is often associated with forms of madness, or at minimum what would be the opposite of educated intelligence. In fact it is usually that seeking of the unintelligible, the natural intelligence that is not in books; that is what poetry is always searching for. David R. Slavitt in his article, a Critic on the Poetry Scene, agrees:
The prejudices, even, the preference for sanity as against madness, or technical competence as against gushings of spontaneous emotion are mine, too -- or are they prejudices? As the old Polish proverb goes, it is better to be rich and healthy than sick and poor. But in academic circles, this primitive bit of wisdom would come as news, for in English departments, to choose civilization over barbarity or intelligence over stupidity is to be an outcast. (Slavitt 167)
He seems to be the kind of critic that allows for some madness, but not as a solid state of affairs. This gushing of spontaneous emotions he seems to infer to Williams' poetry is only there if you look on the surface. There is a deeper crevice that shows the real working of surrealism as the unconscious mirror of reality's soul.
The poet feels great sorrow for the inhabitants of that other world:
Those who live in it are helpless in the hands of the elements, / they are like branches in the deep woods in wind / that whip their leaves off and slice the heart of the night / and sob. They are like boats bleating wearily in fog. (Williams xx)
One can see the imagery of bare branches in the darkness slicing into the night's heart and soul. The sound of foghorns…