Richard R. Frye: On "To Elsie"

Williams was certain his friends and neighbors (and in particular the mentally handicapped young nursemaid, Elsie, who came over from time to time to help Flossie clean house) were out of contact with the "American place," and the image that came into his mind was that of a driverless automobile careening out of control. The doctor's well-known directive, from poem XVII, is to steer clear of empty material aspirations and establish roots in "the earth under our feet":

                            some Elsie— 

voluptuous water 

expressing with broken


brain the truth about us— 

her great 

ungainly hips and flopping breasts


addressed to cheap 


and rich young men with fine eyes


as if the earth under our feet 


an excrement of some sky

Williams' grouse "to" Elsie, among those Zukofsky selected for the elder poet's Collected Poems: 1921-31 (1934), prescribes this remedial "grounding" act as an alternative to self-destruction.

From "Seeing the Signs: Objectivist Premonitions in Williams' Spring and All." Sagetrieb 8.3


Title Richard R. Frye: On "To Elsie" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Richard R. Frye Criticism Target William Carlos Williams
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 18 Oct 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
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