Janet Sullivan: On "The Yachts"

In Williams' 1935 "The Yachts" (Selected Poems 71-72), he uses what can be perceived as another variety of tactical difficulty to create an even more intense confusion for the reader when he breaks his poem into two pieces of visual description that appear at first to be based on two entirely different views of reality. Here his subjects and use of pronouns are steady and unambiguous except on the far side of the break, but the very violence of the break and our inability to put the pieces together based on our experience of seeing in the real world—an experience encouraged by the vivid detail of the first part—force us to seek an explanation in symbolism. But here again, the poet encourages our assumption that a feeling "I" is masterminding our experience, in this case by means of a rather Blakean maneuver. In fact, the speaker refers to that controlling mind, however obliquely, throughout, but especially in the second-to-last stanza. Our problems in seeing a magnificent yacht race described in lavish and pleasurable detail in the first eight stanzas turn into a hideous scene of mass drowning in the last three are finally resolved when the speaker explains:

It is a sea of faces about them in agony, in despair

 

until the horror of the race dawns staggering the mind, 

the whole sea become an entanglement of watery bodies 

lost to the world bearing what they cannot hold (11.27-30)

From "Encountering the Unicorn: William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore." Sagetrieb, Vol 6, No. 3.

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Criticism Overview
Title Janet Sullivan: On "The Yachts" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Janet Sullivan Criticism Target William Carlos Williams
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 19 Oct 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
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