Branching Out New Orleans: Robert Pinsky on Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams
Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams have far more in common than their adherents sometimes acknowledge. The shared territory includes their interest in American idiom, and what Frost calls "sentence sounds," as fundamental. Beyond that profound matter of speech at the heart of poetry—and American speech at the heart of their artistic enterprise—Frost and Williams both struggle with the tangled, aspiring, somewhat demented project of American memory. Reading "Directive" alongside the poem from Spring and All that has been called "To Elsie," the similarities are as urgent and provocative as the differences. Similarly, "Fine Work With Pitch and Copper" and "Mowing" engage the subject of work as art and work versus art. In both "To Waken an Old Lady" and "An Old Man's Winter Night," domestic details of old age and mortality become ways to understand the partial nature of consciousness itself.
A joint initiative with the Poetry Society of America, Branching Out: Poetry for the 21st Century is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.