Paul Mariani: On "The Yachts"

The Yachts," that often anthologized, uncharacteristic effort of Williams, which Williams liked though he knew its technique was imitative. He had begun it with Dante's terza rima since he was borrowing the scene from the Inferno where Dante and Virgil must cut through the arms and hands of the damned floating beneath them who try to sink their small boat. Williams was remembering the magnificent America's Cup yacht races he had seen off Newport, Rhode island, and the ambivalence he had felt watching all that aristocratic skill while knowing that it was a nation of poor people who in reality supported this small privileged class. In a letter he wrote in late August of that year to Pound, after "The Yachts" had already been printed in the New Republic, Williams provided an extraordinary gloss on the sentiments expressed in that poem. The letter was written from Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where Williams had taken Floss and Paul to visit young Bill, who was working in marine biology at the laboratories there for the summer.

Williams had just finished reading Pound's latest book, Jefferson and/or Mussolini, and had enjoyed it because Pound had persisted "in finding a local solution pertinent to the present world situation." But Italy was not America, and Williams believed now that the revolution in America was further off than ever. At that moment the trouble with Americans getting anything like justice served to them, as far as Williams was concerned, was "the organized opposition by the wealthy Republicans to everything Roosevelt is trying to do. It's a race: he'll do it his way, putting over the rudiments of an idea, or they'll get the whip hand back and kill the idea." And if the moneyed Republicans did get power, any chance of a revolution would be dead. Williams had called it a race: a political race between Democrats and Republicans like those yachts racing for the America's Cup in the summer of '35. One or the other side would win--probably the special interests once again--and the sansou, the poor, the disenfranchised, would be cut aside relentlessly as they clawed against the boats struggling simply to stay afloat.

From William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked. Copyright © 1981 by Paul Mariani.


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