The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams

by William Carlos Williams
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In "The Descent of Winter: 9/30," what is the poet's purpose and how does he convey this?

In "The Descent of Winter: 9/30," the purpose of the poet here is to express how composing poetry is full of difficulties and uncertainties. Yet, there is always hope that something promising can still be created. He conveys this by comparing writing to a chaotic and inhospitable sea. Even with all its unpredictabilities and unwelcoming nature, life can still flourish at sea, just as a poem can emerge from the chaos of imagination and faulty composition.

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In this poem, William Carlos Williams is confronting the problems that lie in writing itself. He appears to be concerned with the unbound nature of his writings themselves. The first stanza compares the writings to that of a troubled sea, full of chaos and lacking any semblance of order. The subsequent stanzas further develop this image.

Throughout the five short stanzas of this poem, there exists an extended metaphor that compares the written word to that of the ocean. The sea itself is imperfect. Waves rise, crest, and fall in a seemingly uninhabitable environment. Like the sea, the poet's language is also imperfect. He laments misspellings, poor grammar, and the unpredictability of mood. Something of the ocean reminds him of this.

However, there is hope. The final stanza mentions a coral island that could support life if only some passing birds could drop a few seeds there. From the inhospitable chaos of the sea, life and beauty are still possible. The poet comes to feel the same about writing. Perhaps, out of the chaos of stringing together words, something comprehensible and pleasant can emerge. The poet is hoping that the fertile seeds of his imagination and writings can find that slowly forming island in the sea of creation and take root to become something meaningful. Indeed, when looked at through this lens, the later entries in this collection appear to exhibit more confidence and substance as though they have taken root somewhere more substantial than the wind-tossed waves of the sea.

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