Thomas R. Whitaker: On "The Descent of Winter"

"Paterson" contains no really immediate voices. We hear no living people in this somnambulistic city--not even the poet as actual man, suffering this condition and bringing it to articulation.

In "The Descent of Winter" the diary organization gives us that actual man. The Great American Novel had already explored the possibilities of a fiction in which the author would seem an immediate and improvisatory presence, and Kora in Hell and Spring and All had used seasonal frameworks. Now Williams combined verse and prose in a sequence that locates us in the day-by-day consciousness of the writer as one engaged in an actual descent into local and therefore universal ground. . . .

The structure of the whole, though quite imperfect, does give support to its parts. There are frequent cross-references and illuminating juxtapositions: the poems of 10/22, 10/28, and 10/29, for example, gain from their prose context; and 11/2 ("A Morning Imagination of Russia") is in the following prose related to Charles Sheeler, Shakespeare, and the local Fairfield. The entire sequence may be seen as enacting a descent from auto-erotic and barren isolation (9/27, 9/29) through expansive and fructifying movements toward a new discovery of community, the past, love, and the writer's vocation as earlier known by the "fluid" and "accessible" Shakespeare, "who had that mean ability to fuse himself with everyone which nobody's have, to be anything at any time."

From William Carlos Williams. Copyright © 1968 by Twayne Publishers, Inc.

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Criticism Overview
Title Thomas R. Whitaker: On "The Descent of Winter" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Thomas R. Whitaker Criticism Target William Carlos Williams
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 18 Oct 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication William Carlos Williams
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