The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams

by William Carlos Williams
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In "The Descent of Winter: 9/30," what three choices does the poet make, and what is the purpose of each choice?

In "The Descent of Winter: 9/30," the author chooses to employ figurative language in several ways. He uses an extended metaphor to indicate similarities between the sea and the person's writing. He uses imagery to make the poem come to life for the reader and to indicate the narrator's fascination with the subject. Finally, he uses color to symbolize confusion and further develop the subject of the poem.

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"9/30" is a shorter section of the work in question, but Williams makes several choices involving figurative language to add depth to the poem and keep the reader interested.

His first major choice is to draw an extended metaphor between someone’s writing and the sea, which is inherently unpredictable and unstable. He establishes this in the first line, “There are no perfect waves,” and goes on to explain how this person’s writing is “full of ... faulty sentences.” This establishes that, like the sea, instability is in the nature of the person’s writing. By using the environment as a metaphor, Williams establishes that writing is like the sea, not only in its instability but in its beauty as well.

His second choice is to rely heavily on imagery during this comparison. Again, the “lifting and falling” of the writing is like the waves of the sea, and Williams shows the narrator’s fascination with the writing by noting that the narrator leans forward and tries to pay attention to the subtle details of these waves. It’s worth noting the words he uses to describe them—“brittle,” “delicate,” and “imperfect” all reinforce the earlier idea that the writing is unpredictable and not well-crafted.

A third choice he makes is to introduce color as a possible symbol when he refers to the “yellow weed.” Yellow is a well-known symbol of confusion, which fits well with the instability noted in the writing. Overall, we can characterize the writing as being unpredictable, not following conventional rules, and at times being confusing and difficult to interpret. Yet it is also beautiful and intriguing, which we infer because of how much attention the narrator gives to it. He then notes that a “coral island” may be forming, an isolated center of stability as compared to the surrounding ocean. Because “the seeds will make it habitable,” we can also infer that there is an opportunity for growth in the writing, even though the author doesn't seem overly optimistic about it.

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