In prose and poetry, William Carlos Williams repeatedly disavowed the 'high' modernist project exemplified by T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land". How might "Spring and All" be understood as an 'anti-Waste Land' poem? How do the two poems seem to overlap?
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It is in the act of perception that American author and T.S. Eliot contemporary, William Carlos Williams in "Spring and All" parts company with the sensibility of "The Waste Land". On the surface the opening dreary images of "Spring and All" resemble those of "The Waste Land". There observers encounter near the contagious hospital:
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen..."
"...and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
These words describing a lifeless landscape invite observers to an 'Eliotesque' despair until they realize that Williams is pushing through this by an altogether new act of perception. Detachment sees only a desolate landscape on the road to the hospital. But engaged souls see that from the nearly invisible a new world is emerging. Focused upon the ordinary details of the scene, they discover new life and, most importantly, a new interconnectedness between themselves and a quickening world. Both perceivers and perceived come alive:
"...the profound change
has come upon them: rooted they
grip down and begin to awaken"
In this way, "Spring and All" could be taken as an "anti-Waste Land" poem.
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