Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The central issue of “The Wind Increases” is the subject of poetry itself. In lines 11-13, the poet very directly and almost bluntly asks, “Good Christ what is/ a poet—if any/ exists?” Throughout the course of the poem, the poet replies to his own query, ultimately concluding that there are six essential qualities that a good poet must possess. First, a poet must have an imagination that is “open to the weather.” Just as a storm may arise suddenly and without warning, a poem may also arise and come unexpectedly to the poet’s consciousness. The poet, however, needs to be open to such an experience in order to produce art. Second, poets must “loose” their love and allow it to flow freely if they are to fully understand and participate in life. Without permitting one’s feelings to surface, a person cannot live well or write a good poem. Third, the poet must discover and use words that will “bite their way home” and express the heart and the essential truth of the human condition. Fourth, these words—which must be actual, concrete words—must also be able to capture or emulate the form of fluid, invisible motion. Thus, the language of poetry should be concrete yet capable of describing intangible feelings and ideas. Fifth, a poet must fashion and invent new ideas to add to the already existing body of knowledge. Sixth, in addition to being original, the poet must be rooted in reality and willing to explore every aspect of life and the world.

Thus it requires a combination of vital abilities and talents to become a great artist. If poets do possess all these necessary qualities, they will be able to create their own unique artistic works. According to Whitaker, Williams believed that being an artist was a high calling. Whitaker states that Williams thought that “art itself [was] important because, inviting and refreshing our attention, it [helps] to awaken us from our ordinary sleepwalking—from those habits, blockages, and illusions that produce and perpetuate man’s inhumanity to man.”